United Way Fire Relief Effort to Benefit Town, Firefighter Families
GCU News Bureau
Flags on campus and around Arizona remained lowered to half-mast Tuesday as communities across the state mourned the deaths of 19 firefighters in one of the deadliest wildfire tragedies in U.S. history.
As of today, the Yarnell Hill Fire had grown to nearly 9,000 acres northwest of Phoenix and firefighters struggled with weather conditions that left it raging at zero-percent containment, authorities said.
Grand Canyon University officials announced Monday they would donate $10,000 to the United Way of Yavapai County to assist with relief efforts. GCU community members are encouraged to do the same by visiting the United Way of Yavapai County’s website. Donations can be made electronically with a credit card or via PayPal account. Staffers are encouraged to use their University emails while donating so organizers have a sense of GCU’s support.
Melanie Jacobson, executive director for United Way of Yavapai County, said proceeds from the fund would benefit the families of the fallen Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, in addition to providing support to the citizens of Yarnell — many of whom risk being left homeless in the wake of the blaze. Prescott-area fire agencies and other non-profits are collecting additional funds to support the families of the Hotshots.
Most of the fallen firefighters were in their 20s. Some had young families.
“These families have lost not only their loved ones but probably the bread winner,” Jacobson said. “Our funding is going to help out with their basic needs until the large (fire department) funds are dispersed.”
Jacobson said the town of Yarnell, with a population of about 500, includes many seniors living on a fixed income who “lost everything” in the fire. She added that support for the relief effort has come from around the country and that the ongoing relief effort is by far the most significant ever attempted by her organization, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
“It’s a reminder that we’re all connected,” Jacobson said. “One of the things that just astounded me was that when I was putting this thing together in the wee hours the other morning, I’m listening to NPR and BBC out of London and the top story was that 19 elite firefighters lost their lives.”