When a community is facing a crisis, it always brings out the best (and the worst) in people. Such is the case with the wildfires burning at Pinnacle Mountain in Table Rock State Park.
The best? Well, there’ve been donations rolling in statewide of everything from bottled water and Gatorade to blankets and shovels. Firefighters and other members of the various organizations protecting us from the flames have received thousands of well-wishes and cards, hopes and prayers.
School teachers are setting aside class time to let their students draw thank you cards and posters. A local restaurant grilled steaks for the workers up at base camp. All in all, for the most part, people have really banded together.
But there’s always a couple of bad apples.
Specifically, there have been reports of people impersonating firefighters going door-to-door soliciting funds to aid in the Pinnacle Mountain fire fight — funds that will never go further than the pockets of the people who are fraudulently collecting them.
Shame on them.
I will never understand what possesses a person to take a genuinely serious event and see only an opportunity to turn it into personal profit.
That being said, their actions are not only affecting the people who were duped into donating to them, but also the fire effort itself as now some donors may hold back for fear of giving to a dishonest organization.
But here’s the deal — don’t let them scare you off. As of Monday, the South Carolina Forestry Commission was estimating $1.6 million had already been spent in the operations in the Northern part of our county — in a week.
With the fire covering around (again, as of Monday) 5,400 acres and no rain in sight, this is unlikely to be wrapped up anytime soon. These organizations need — and will continue to need — support.
If you feel compelled to help, there are any number of ways you can contribute but be wary of donating to unfamiliar organizations.
Just a couple of “safe” places to donate include a GoFundMe page called “Firefighting Efforts Pickens County” which was set up by a Pickens County deputy who has been volunteering at the scene and the American Red Cross. Both have been endorsed by Pickens County Emergency Management.
Of course, failing that, you can always drop off any donations of bottled water, etc. at your local fire station.
Another way you can help? Stay out of the way.
Social media has been flooded with photographs of our burning mountains but for every shot taken safely at a distance, some idiot tries to sneak past road blocks in search of the perfect photograph.
Guys, don’t do this.
Road blocks are set up for a reason, they’re tying to keep people safe. And every time a deputy of firefighter has to turn around a fire-gawker that got too close, they are prevented from doing what it is they are up there to do — fight the fire.
So in short, if you can help — help. If you can’t, that’s fine too. Just don’t hinder.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at [email protected] Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.