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EAGAR, Ariz. – Credit unions in eastern Arizona, closest to the massive “Rodeo-Chediski” wildfire near Show Low, were girding for emergency loans and financial assistance last week to help members who have lost homes and other property in the devastated area. “We’ll do whatever it takes to help out our members,” declared Rahima Eaton, manager of the $7 million Snowflake Mills Federal Credit Union in Snowflake, which is located 18 miles from the blaze. Snowflake Mills has more than half of its primary membership of 1,600 impacted by the fire, said Eaton. She noted that two of the CU’s employees had to evacuate their homes with no word on when they could return. Georgia Mastin, a director of Salt River Project Federal Credit Union who has homes in both Heber and Linden, two towns already touched by the fires, said she personally feels “pretty lucky since both of our homes were spared, but right now we’re watching like everybody else and hoping for the best.” Mastin, an employee relations supervisor at SRP’s generating station, was told she can not return to either home. She is currently staying in the Eagar residence of “someone I don’t know but is friend of a woman who works for me.” At press time, Mastin’s CU, located in Tempe, a suburb of Phoenix, was itself preparing for a possible data breakdown at its branch in St. Johns, near the fire zone. Utility lines that serve the St. Johns-branch run through Show Low, the largest community in the area, and one facing the worst of the fire disaster. Show Low, with a population of 7,000, has no CUs but many of its retiree residents belong to area CUs. Serving on the front line of emergency personnel has been James Kisner, a director of Pima Federal Credit Union in Tucson, and owner of a Show Low ambulance service. “Right now the city is pretty well evacuated with only maybe 1,500 fire crews in here,” said Kisner who said both his home and a cabin he owns in Heber and Show Low were spared the fire. Kisner said he has been kept busy on hospital calls but surprisingly there have been few injuries among the fire crews. The biggest problem has been “exhaustion.” The Arizona Credit Union League said it would review CU assistance plans including possibly reaching into its Foundation funds, set aside to help CUs. For the moment, CUs like Snowflake Mills were coping with comforting their members and assuring them emergency funds would come their way to rebuild. “I just got through consoling an elderly gentleman who lost his home,” said Eaton. “Our board is holding an emergency meeting this Thursday to discuss what our next moves can be to help our members.” -

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