Chiloquin Elementary School educators and staff spent the first week of the 2020-21 school year making sure students were safe from a quickly spreading wildfire that forced the evacuation of more than 600 homes in the area.

They called and connected with their school families, asking if they needed help.

Many did, and the school, with the help of donations from the Klamath Tribes, and Chiloquin and Klamath County communities, was able to provide food, water, diapers, hygiene kits, and even food for dogs and chickens, to area families.

“Our community has stepped up beyond what we could imagine both in Chiloquin and Klamath County,” said Janelle Emard, instructional coach at Chiloquin Elementary School. “People from all over have donated supplies, and we were able to get them out to our community.”

Klamath County School District and other organizations, including Citizens for Safe Schools, Chiloquin Fire and Rescue, Friends of the Children, and Klamath Falls City Schools, transported donations to the school, unloading them into the gymnasium as families arrived to pick up needed supplies.

Some evacuees returned to their homes late this week, but still were in need of help.

“Even for families who were allowed back, it is a hardship,” said Rita Hepper, principal of the 185-student elementary school in the city of Chiloquin. “It’s a huge unexpected cost, and even next week we will continue to help.”

Overall, about 70 families received help at the school over the past two days.

“We owe so much to the firefighters and everyone who is working so hard to save everything they can,” Emard said. “I am very proud to be part of this amazing community.”

The Two Four Two Fire started Monday night near Collier State Park, and as of Friday, had burned more than 12,500 acres, threatening 1,278 structures, damaging 70, and destroying 35. The city of Chiloquin, where the elementary and high schools are located, was not under threat as of late Friday. For the latest information on the fire, go to

Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District, helps unload donations transported from Klamath Falls to Chiloquin Elementary School.

Donations came from all over Klamath County, including Klamath Falls City Schools, Friends of the Children, and Citizens for Safe School

Rachel Belenfant and Jody Montoya unload donations for Chiloquin families impacted by the Two Four Two Fire.

Chiloquin Elementary and Klamath County School District staff unload a car of donations into the school’s gymnasium.