Catherine Anaya

Community rising

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As I write this, the Wallow Fire is scorching its way through eastern Arizona on a fast track to becoming the worst wildfire in the state’s history.

Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes, with no guarantee they’ll have anything to ultimately return to. Thousands of firefighters from all over Arizona are using their expertise to battle the ferocious flames of the uncontrollable blaze many have simply dubbed “a monster.”

Wicked winds are making this a tough, tragic, frustrating and often personal war with Mother Nature.

The emotional stories and the incredible pictures of the raging flames my colleagues and I at CBS 5 News are bringing to viewers are almost surreal.

But what stands out most to me among all of the smoke and flames is the spirit of optimism and community rising from the devastation. It’s a reminder of one of a list of reasons many of us make Arizona home: It’s a big state with a small-town feel. When times get tough, we step up to help our neighbors. We’re watching people open their homes to strangers displaced by the fire. We’re seeing firefighters leave their families for weeks on end to help their brothers and sisters in need. We’re watching volunteers help facilitate shelters while others take in pets or round up toiletries and food to help evacuees feel as comfortable as possible.

We’re often hammered by viewers aching for more positive news. I’m proud to say we’ve been able to provide it on a regular basis with our Thursday night Pay It Forward stories on CBS 5 News at ten. They epitomize what makes Arizonans so special: ordinary people doing extraordinary things that might otherwise fall under the radar.

Each week we give $500 to a viewer who then has one hour to give the money away to someone in need. These pay-it-forward stories are some of the most emotional and inspiring snippets of the good that exists in our community.

To nominate someone deserving of this, I encourage you to visit and click on the Pay It Forward link.

Under this idea of giving, I also encourage you to donate to the Grand Canyon Chapter of the American Red Cross. Each dollar goes toward the local disaster relief fund, providing financial resources to areas where it’s needed most. Right now, that includes the Wallow Fire. You can find a link to the website at

As I write this, the Wallow Fire is growing and firefighters have not been able to contain it. But they tell us they have all the necessary resources to get it done and confidently tell us they will.

If you’ve lived here long enough, you can’t help but have faith. We know better than anyone that “a monster” is no match for the spirit of Arizona.

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