Nespelem community in need of help from wildfire damage

NESPELEM, Wash. — The message from people in Nespelem to Governor Jay Inslee, we need help. On Wednesday, he visited the town scorched by the Chuweah Creek Fire.

Homes need rebuilding, fences need to be replaced and roads need to be fixed; Nespelem and the Colville tribes are in critical need and in recovery and repair mode. The governor said lawmakers need to step up and help.

The Chuweah Creek Fire destroyed three homes, burned fences and crops. Community members are hoping the state and federal government will hear their pleas for help.

“There’s a lot of fear in our community because of the fires. The other side as well, so that’s a concern we have,” said community member Storey Jackson.

Everyone in Nespelem had to leave their homes because of the fire. No one knew what the destruction would look like until the sun came up.

“We really need your help here. We’ve lost a lot. We’ve lost a lot of land. We’ve lost a lot of timber. We’ve lost a lot of berry picking. People supplement their income with that,” said Tina Drywater, a nurse a Convalescent House.

FEMA covered 75 percent of the bill to fight the fires, but nothing came for the people who lost their homes, livestock and other property.

Inslee said the root of the disaster, adding that Nespelem may be the epicenter of it, is climate change.

“We’re going to help in every way that we possibly can — restore their homes, get aerial attack. We’ve got fight climate change at its source because it’s punishing people of this community,” said Inslee.

He wants Nespelem to have more help, or help at all.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is to get the federal government to open the door to help for people’s homes who burned down in forest fires,” he said.

Inslee wants state lawmakers to pass a transportation bill to help fix their ferries from Keller. On a federal level, he is hoping Congress will pass an infrastructure bill to give communities, like Nespelem, money to help them rebuild. They are still trying to rebuild from the last fire in 2020 and even back in 2015.

“The recovery and the repair of all the damages I think is going to be the most challenging,” said Jackson.

“I guess if there’s one lesson we should’ve learned out of this, if not else, I think we all better straighten out how we’re living,” said community member Darlene Wilder.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Inslee to visit Nespelem, meet with communities impacted by wildfire 

RELATED: Chuweah Creek Fire has burned more than 56 square miles near Nespelem, 40 percent contained