SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Nearly 10,000 volunteers collected and delivered over 3 million pounds of firewood to Native American Tribes across Utah this month. This comes after a major windstorm rocked Northern Utah and downed thousands of trees.
Operation Firewood Rescue, an initiative sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in partnership with Utah government entities, Utah Navajo Health System, the Utah Trucking Association, Associated General Contractors and the Rotary Clubs of Utah, recently transported the firewood to Navajo Nation and other tribes in Utah.
According to a press release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from Logan to Draper, thousands of Latter-day Saints and other volunteers donated their time and resources to help with the massive cleanup that was left after the severe windstorm.
Volunteers would help remove trees and then cut the wood into 18-inch pieces before moving them to a county-owned lot nearby.
Pete Sands, a public relations specialist for Utah Navajo Health System, said that he started a firewood program last October explaining that firewood is a lifeline for the Navajo Nation community in Utah.
“The unemployment rate and the infrastructure on the Navajo reservation is not that great, so you put COVID on top of that and it just decimated everything,” Sands told Church volunteers. “We don’t have heaters, we don’t have central cooling systems on the reservation, a lot of the homes here depend on firewood for food.”
In response to the firewood need, piles of wood from storm-ridden areas were collected and dropped off at 42 different locations.
“The magnitude of this project is far larger than we ever anticipated and it’s astounding,” said Stephen Studdert, chairman of “Operation Firewood Rescue”.
Once the 3 million pounds of firewood was collected along the Wasatch Front, the firewood was quickly distributed to the various Native American Tribes in Utah.
Drivers of 80 long-combination vehicles such as semi-trucks and double-trailers lined up to load firewood and then made their way to drop off firewood loads to Navajo, Goshutes, and Shosone tribes.
“Even though we come from a different background, different cultures, we can still come together and help each other,” said Sands. “It’s a great example for the Church, people like myself and others.”
Once the curing process is complete, the split and stacked firewood will be distributed to Native American elders and families at each location.
“It’s a tragedy to see those trees go down,” said Samuel Alon Pugh, Blanding’s stake president for the Church. “But they were able to take that tragedy and turn it into a miracle of love, a feeling of warmth that is not just in the wood that will burn but in the hearts that will swell with love and appreciation for the people that have given the gift. [For those] receiving, the gift [will] give for a long time.”