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Colorado Wildfire May Force Thousands More To Evacuate

The American Red Cross is providing food and shelter in Colorado where a fast-moving wildfire has already forced hundreds of people from their homes with thousands more put on notice that they may also have to evacuate.

Red Cross workers are providing a safe place to stay for those affected, and providing support to those responding to the fire.

Matt Bell is one of the many residents who stopped by the Red Cross shelter in Conifer, Colorado because of the Lower North Fork Wildfire. "At 9:00 p.m., we got the call to evacuate,” Matt reported. "We grabbed a few of the most important things, some clothes and important documents. Everything else is just stuff and can be replaced."

Like many others, Matt has a place to stay but found that the shelter offered additional support. Mental health workers are on hand to help support people through the fear and uncertainty. He was at the shelter for the updates being given by emergency responders. Often, emergency responders know that structures have been lost but are unable to confirm the owner because street signs, addresses and other landmarks have been lost to the fire.

Ricke Clark often watches his two-year-old granddaughter when his daughter and son-in-law are away. Both are pilots and their schedules frequently take them out of town. That was the case this week when grandfather and granddaughter were forced to evacuate due to the wildfire near Conifer.

“My daughter called to report the neighborhood was being evacuated,” Ricke recalled. “We went back up the hill, packed up the 2 dogs and 2 cats, and got out.” Ricke and his granddaughter came to the Red Cross shelter. The pair stayed the night in the shelter, and the youngster received a brand new stuffed animal from Red Cross workers to help make her stay more comfortable. Mom and dad are on their way home, and Ricke reports the family will all stay at the Red Cross shelter until evacuations are lifted.

IF A WILDFIRE THREATENS your neighborhood, back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape. Wildfires can spread quickly, igniting brush, trees and homes. The Red Cross has important steps people can follow to lessen the threat of a wildfire. Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to get out quickly. Listen to local radio and television stations for updated information, and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. These steps will help limit exposure to smoke:

  • Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
  • Use the recycle or re-­circulate mode on the air conditioner in your home or car. If you do not have air conditioning and it is too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
  • When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns and adds to indoor air pollution, such as candles, fireplaces and gas stoves. Do not vacuum because it stirs up particles that are already inside your home.
  • If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your health care provider's advice and seek medical care if your symptoms worsen.

BEING PREPARED can be your best offense when it comes to wildfires. You should plan two ways out of your neighborhood in case one is blocked. Set up a place for family members to meet outside your neighborhood in case you can’t get home or need to evacuate. Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the area. Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home and in everyone’s cellphone. Other steps you can take include:

  • Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
  • Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool.
  • Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.
  • Select building materials and plants that resist fire.
  • Regularly clean roofs and gutters.

More wildfire steps and tips are available.