4-H members use their Heads,
Hearts, and Hands to help community during evacuation

Sela Raisl

Sela Raisl uses a net to catch chickens and other poultry on a Clackamas County farm that was in the fire evacuation zone on September 10.

With smoke and ash falling, 16-year-old Sela Raisl volunteered to help rescue livestock from a rural Clackamas County farm that was being threatened by the Riverside Fire. At about 4pm on Thursday, her family got a call from club leader Karen O’Neil, who asked to borrow their horse trailer for an animal rescue effort. “There were going to be more than 70 animals at one stop,” O’Neil said. “When I pulled in to hook up, there was Sela, decked out in her 4-H gear, water bottle in hand, ready to jump in the truck and go. I was so shocked. Without even the slightest waver she was all in.”

In September, fires threatened homes for 15 days and 750 4-H families had to leave or prepare to leave their homes due to wildfire. But scenes like this played out all over the county. One 4-H family helping another. Neighbors offering trailer rides to animals and evacuating treasured belongings. The 4-H community showed up to volunteer at emergency shelters such as the Clackamas County Fairgrounds, ready to coordinate supplies and organize the incoming evacuees.

The 4-H effort did not end at the county border. The closest evacuation sites filled quickly, forcing many people to travel 50 miles or more to find a safe refuge. A team of staff members from the Clatsop County Extension office came with trailers to move animals stuck in fire zones. 4-H youth could be found at emergency sites in Marion, Yamhill, Columbia, and Washington Counties where they welcomed tired people and provided expert animal care.

After the successful rescue, Sela reflected on her experience. “I look at all these animals and I think about how they’ve been displaced,” she said. “Their owners are struggling because they might have lost their houses and their farms. I always think that when people are in trouble and they are struggling you can help them,” she said. “If you have hands and you have feet, you can help.”

Learn more about how 4-H families responded to wildfires: