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Service Academy, Forest Service Team Up To Help Low-Income Families

Agencies join forces to provide free firewood to low-income and seniors in the county.

The Northwest Service Academy (NWSA) and US Forest Service joined forces to provide free firewood (hauled, split, and stacked) to low-income families and seniors in Klickitat County.

Forester Jon Nakae of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest needed to get rid of the dead trees that were hazardous to campers at the Cold Springs Campground, the trailhead for those climbing Mt. Adams.

"Forest Service crews felled the dead trees and bucked them into rounds," says Nakae, "but we couldn't leave it all, because it was unsightly and a fire hazard. We needed a way to get rid of the material, access to the wood was fairly difficult."

The forest service needed more people power to help get the wood out of the campground, so Nakae asked Director Jim Wells of the Northwest Service Academy -- Mt. Adams Center, an AmeriCorps program, if the Academy would be willing to help move, split, and distribute the wood to local residents. NWSA welcomed the new service project.

"We jointly covered the cost of removing the wood. The Forest Service provided a vehicle and driver, and paid the Academy for part of its time. The Academy donated manpower," clarified Nakae. "All the pieces fell together quite smoothly. Not only did they now have the means to move the wood, the Forest Service was also able to coincide the felling of the trees with the resurfacing of the South Climb Road. This minimized the cars, people, and safety hazards in the campground as access to the area was discouraged during that time."

Just before the snow closed the South Climb Road for the season, four teams of eight AmeriCorps members spent the better part of three hardworking days hauling hefty rounds of lodgepole pine, and subalpine fir, 16 slow miles down the mountain to their headquarters behind the Forest Service. AmeriCorps members helped the Forest Service clean up limbs and other debris left over from the fallen trees.

During the following weeks, AmeriCorps members spent their spare time splitting the wood to be delivered to locals in need. Although much of the wood was split by hand, the members couldn't have done the project (as quickly) without the generosity of Jim Lambert (whose wood splitter offered a welcome reprise from the ax), and the kindness of DJ's Repair and Rental. Antoine Chesaux, a NWSA leader, estimated that over 20 cords of pine and fir were stockpiled.

Half of the wood has since been donated locally to churches, low-income families, disabled individuals, and seniors-in-need. The rest is being disseminated throughout the county in conjunction with the Klickitat County Senior Services in White Salmon that provides seniors with energy assistance through the State.

The donation of wood from the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and from the labors of the Northwest Service Academy will, hopefully, shed warmth through many homes in Klickitat County. Both organizations look forward to working together on a similar project next year.

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