Last week, as fire conditions of the East Fork tundra fire appeared poised to reach St. Mary’s and Pitka’s Point, it also began to threaten access to both the St. Mary’s and Mt. Village airports. At the recommendation of fire response officials, by request of Tribal and city leaders of the area, and in partnership with multiple regional and State organizations, YKHC took the lead in supporting the voluntary relocation of about 145 St. Mary’s, Pitka’s Point, and Mt. Village residents to Bethel.
In roughly 3 hours, YKHC led the set-up of a temporary shelter in Bethel, including shelter staffing, meal preparation and delivery, on-site medical support, and a process for identifying donation needs, collection, and distribution. The primary goal was to get individuals to Bethel safely, provide a safe place to stay, and make sure food was available. As more people arrived, within a day, a second shelter was quickly set-up in collaboration with LKSD. Upon arrival, shelter intake included resident registration, medical screening and COVID-19 testing.
YKHC is grateful for the incredible community spirit to respond to the needs of our temporarily relocated neighbors. Due to on-going COVID-19 transmission risk, limited shelter space serving as the temporary home for many, limited operating capacity, and food safety requirements outlined by the Alaska Food Code, YKHC established operating policies for the temporary shelters as upheld by nationwide relief organizations, like the Red Cross. Officials from the Alaska Red Cross have arrived in Bethel and YKHC is working with them for on-going shelter operations.
YKHC will offer official social media updates as soon as information is available on how the community’s generosity is best focused in meeting the current needs of our visitors including an update later specifically on food and other donations, including any donations of freshly caught salmon.