Hundreds of volunteers jump in to help fill sand bags ahead of storm after machine malfunction

PAYSON, Utah — Hundreds of volunteers responded to social media posts asking for help filling sandbags to prepare for an impending storm.

The Payson Fire Department and Utah National Guard sent the posts after several sandbag filling machines malfunctioned.

The combination of sand and clay caused the machines to clog, significantly impacting how many bags they could fill.

The posts asked people to bring their own shovels and gloves to help fill 12,000 bags.

“They need them, we fill them,” said volunteer Kim Echols of Payson. “We’ll just keep going until it rains us out.”

Echols was one of the scores of volunteers who came to the parking lot at Orchard Hills Ball Park at a moment’s notice.

“Water damage is pretty serious so if we can keep the water out of somebody’s house, that's awesome,” Echols said. “If this saves somebody’s house from flooding, that's a good thing

The bags will be taken to communities across Utah County that face the most serious flood threats. Places like Woodland Hills and Elk Ridge are in harm’s way because of burn scars left by this summer’s wildfires.

Like so many other volunteers, Kim’s work will help people he’s never met. That is what compelled him the most to donate his time and energy.

“I found the times in my life when I’ve been the happiest are when I’m doing something for someone else,” Echols said.

Chief Scott Spencer of the Payson Fire Department is not surprised by the outpouring of support from the community.

“No matter what the situation is, they are here, they want to help, they want to make a difference and serve the community,” Spencer said.

As the sun set and darkness fell on Payson, volunteers continued to fill every last bag. They managed to finish their work before the rain arrived.

The recent news of fire and weather disasters in Utah and around the world put everything in perspective.

“Even if we had to stay up here all night in the rain, it wouldn’t be more than what other people are dealing with,” Echols said.

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