Patti and Jerry Ellmann could see the smoke from a top a ridge the day that the High Park Fire erupted west of Fort Collins, Colo. At the time, it looked far away – but the fire grew rapidly, and that very afternoon they received the call to evacuate.
They live at the base of Rist Canyon, one of the areas that has experienced the greatest fire activity over the past week. “We were watching for cars coming down the canyon. When we started seeing a lot of cars coming down, we knew it was serious,” Jerry said. “So we packed up and got out.”
They had family to stay with in Fort Collins, but they still came to the Red Cross shelter in Loveland – not to seek help, but rather to give it.
Patti and Jerry became Red Cross volunteers in January. The couple, who have been married 49 years, volunteer regularly and go on international mission trips. For the Red Cross, they trained to drive the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle
They never imagined that they would be sharing the experience of the disaster survivors they were training to help.
“We can sympathize and empathize with them a lot more now,” Jerry said.
He and his wife reported to the Red Cross shelter and initially were put to work answering public questions, setting up cots and providing general shelter support. When the Emergency Response Vehicle was put into action delivering cough drops, energy bars and other recovery supplies from the Red Cross warehouse/suppliers to the Multi-Agency Disaster Recovery Center in Fort Collins, the Ellmanns got behind the wheel to make the deliveries.
“Volunteering takes our mind off of things,” Jerry said. “It’s hard to sit around and not know.”
Their home is in an area where the situation has been too volatile for emergency responders to release information about the status of residents’ homes, so the Ellmanns have been waiting all week for any word.
“We’re busy; we don’t have time to think much [about the fire]. It makes the time go by faster while we’re waiting,” Patti said.