Blackfoot helps Pocatello clean up from fire

POCATELLO — With their distinctive yellow vests standing out against the black and barren hillsides, they called themselves the 'worker-bees,' and swarms of them converged upon the fire ravaged hills of Pocatello Saturday afternoon — eager to lend a helping hand to a neighboring community in need during a massive fire clean-up effort organized by the LDS Church.
More than 2,000 volunteers of all faiths, from Blackfoot, American Falls, Inkom, Aberdeen, Pocatello and Chubbuck stepped up to the plate with trucks, trailers, back-hoes, chain-saws and axes 'ready and willing' to help clean up the devastation that the June 28th 'Charlotte Fire' left behind after destroying 66 homes. Even Mother Nature lent a helping hand by providing an over-cast sky and some relief from the extreme heat experienced just days before.
The volunteers met early in the morning at the parking lot of Century High School and were organized into teams of five where they were assigned specific areas of clean-up on properties affected by the 'Charlotte Fire'.
The 'yellow-vested' bunch were volunteers from various LDS Wards throughout Blackfoot, many who remember a time when they themselves were in desperate need of help, when in the early summer of 1997 flood waters were rising fast threatening homes and property along a 40-mile stretch of the Snake River. Many of those who volunteered for Saturday's fire-clean up felt this was an opportunity to give back to a community that came to their aid 15 years ago.
Ray Carlson, a Bingham County resident of 40 years, who readily answered the call to help neighboring Bannock County, remembers a time when a group of volunteers from Pocatello offered him great relief at a time when he feared the worst.
"The flood waters were rising and we were about to lose a dyke," Carlson recalled of the '97 floods. "We were filling sandbags along Thomas Road as fast as we possibly could until the wee hours of the morning. I had fallen into the river and was extremely tired and worn out."
Carlson said he will never forget the welcome sight of seeing a bus load of volunteers roll in from Pocatello..."a group of young kids got out and went to work...they saved the dyke and I was able to go home and get some much needed rest."
DeVaughn Shipley of Blackfoot also recalls the goodness of the Pocatello volunteers who came to assist during the '97 floods; however, he stressed that this is not the sole motivation for helping the Pocatello property owners.
"When we are asked to help...that's what we do...we help," Shipley noted.
Matt Jones, a member of Riverside's Third Ward, who was working with his team on a blackened hillside where a home once stood on Bannock Highway, took a brief moment to comment on the 'clean-up' day saying, "The people from Blackfoot really came out of the 'wood-work' to help today. Those who couldn't make it donated food, drinks and equipment."
Volunteers crews were also on hand making rounds to make sure that those doing the heavy labor had plenty water and safety gear such as safety goggles and dust masks.
Regional Public Affairs Officer for the LDS Church, Larry Fisher, of Pocatello said he was overwhelmed with the number of able-bodied volunteers who participated in the clean-up. Fisher stressed that their will be future clean-ups requiring volunteers throughout the summer. Those who would like to become part of the "Charlotte Fire" volunteer pool can do so by registering at: Visitors to the site can find postings for specific volunteer opportunities. There is also information on the site on how to donate to the Red Cross.