CARTERSVILLE, Ga. - Anheuser-Busch announced Monday it is sending more than 50,000 cans of water to help out people affected by the massive wildfires burning in Washington state and the rest of the Pacific Northwest.
A truck loaded with 2,156 cases of emergency drinking water from the Cartersville brewery will arrive early this week in Wenatchee, Washington. That totals 51,744 cans.
The local Anheuser-Busch distributor will then work with the American Red Cross and local authorities to get the water to those who need it.
“This is one way Anheuser-Busch can help our friends out west, by producing water for people who need it most in Washington state,” said Robert Haas, senior general manager at the Cartersville brewery.
The Cartersville brewery is responsible for packing all emergency drinking water Anheuser-Busch distributes to disaster relief efforts across the United States.
“Firefighters and relief workers are in need of safe, clean drinking water, and Anheuser-Busch is in a unique position to produce and ship emergency drinking water,” said Peter Kraemer, vice president of supply for Anheuser-Busch.
Channel 2 Action News went to the brewery in November 2012 when the Cartersville brewery canned water for those affected by Superstorm Sandy in the New York City area.
The biggest fire burning in Washington Monday was in Okanogan County on the Canadian border, where a group of five fires raging out of control became the largest in state history, scorching more than 400 square miles, fire spokesman Rick Isaacson said.
Lightning-sparked fires broke the state record, surpassing blazes that destroyed more than 300 homes in the same county last year.
"I'd like to set some different records," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.
The U.S. is in the midst of one of its worst fire seasons on record with some 11,600 square miles scorched so far. It's only the sixth-worst going back to 1960, but it's the most acreage burned by this date in a decade, so the ranking is sure to rise.
"It's only Aug. 24th," Isaacson said. "In our district we could see this go clear to the first of November."
Thirteen firefighters have died nationwide this year, including the three in Washington state who were killed when they tried to escape the fire in a vehicle, crashed and were overrun by flames.
The flames that claimed the lives of three firefighters, injured four others and burned 200 homes also inspired an outpouring of volunteers who have been invited for the first time in state history to help battle the blazes.
Fire managers from New Zealand and Australia arrived to contribute to a ground campaign led by firefighters from across the West and augmented by U.S. soldiers.
The 70 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand who arrived at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, were being outfitted to fill a critical shortage of mid-level fire managers such as equipment bosses, strike team leaders and supervisors.
Chris Arnol, international liaison for Australia and New Zealand firefighters, said at a news conference in Boise the firefighters will be ready for the mountainous terrain in the Pacific Northwest.
Warren Heslip, a 47-year-old firefighter from Southland, New Zealand, said the new arrivals were ready for the conditions.
"We're used to tall timber and steep territory," he said.
Costs for the international firefighters will be paid by the agency they're assigned to, officials said, though no estimate was yet available.
Since 1988, Anheuser-Busch said it has donated more than 73 million cans of emergency drinking water following natural and other disasters.