The American Red Cross expanded its relief response to the raging wildfires out west after new blazes broke out Wednesday in Colorado, forcing hundreds of people to leave their neighborhoods.
Red Cross disaster workers are now helping people in Colorado, California and Arizona who have been impacted by the wildfires. Officials say critical fire conditions will continue today and the Red Cross is prepared to respond to any new fires if needed.
COLORADO FIRES New wildfires broke out Wednesday in Jefferson, Douglas and Huerfano counties, forcing hundreds of residents and boy scouts at a local campground to leave the area. The Red Cross opened shelters and about 175 people sought refuge overnight. Disaster workers are also providing meals and drinks for those affected and first responders and have comfort kits containing personal toiletries available for residents who had to leave their homes with little notice.
Meanwhile, Red Cross workers continue to help people affected by the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, providing cleaning and recovery supplies, snacks, water and meeting with affected residents to provide emotional support, basic health services, and help them as they begin to recover.
COUPLE LOSES EVERYTHING Catherine and William Blake had less than an hour to collect their belongings when Colorado’s Black Forest wildfire forced them from their home.
“We got our dogs and a lot of important items from the house before we left,” Blake said. “We didn’t have enough time to get everything; we made it out just as the smoke was rising from behind our yard.”
The couple then had to wait nearly a week before they could return to see what became of their home. Unfortunately, their house could not be saved from the blaze. “It was shocking to see when we got here,” Mrs. Blake said. “I couldn’t believe how everything was just gone.”
Shortly after returning to their home they stopped by a Red Cross aid station and picked up a fire debris sifter, rakes, shovels and gloves to go through the ash and rubble to see if anything was salvageable. “I’ve found some teacups and things I wouldn’t have thought would have made it,” Mrs. Blake said. “I’m going to try and find my ring and my mother’s china but I can’t even tell what anything is.”
While the Blake’s were outside digging through the ash and debris which was once their home, Red Cross volunteers and the fire chaplain stopped by to see how they were doing. Teams of Red Cross mental health counselors have been going through areas damaged by the wildfire to speak with residents and offer emotional support.
The couple is planning to rebuild their lives after the disaster. They agree that what matters most is that they have each other, their daughter and their pets. “We will rebuild,” Blake said. “We don’t know if it will be here but we will rebuild.”
CALIFORNIA, ARIZONA RESPONSE The Doce Wildfire near Prescott, Arizona has consumed about 6,000 acres and firefighters have been unable to contain the blaze. The Red Cross is providing shelter, food, health and mental health services for residents. The Red Cross shelter is also serving as a hub where people can come to get information about the large fire.
In California, Red Cross workers are providing meals, shelter, health and mental health services for people affected by the wildfire in Mariposa near Yosemite National Park, which has put about 500 structures in peril and forced people to leave their neighborhoods.
WILDLFIRE SAFETY With red flag warnings continuing today, people should be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice if ordered to do so. If someone has to evacuate, they should bring the following supplies:
People can also download the free Red Cross Wildfire App, which gives information about what to do before, during and after a wildfire, even without connectivity, and where Red Cross shelters are located. The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.
HOW TO HELP You can help people affected by disasters like wildfires, tornadoes, floods and other crises by making a donation to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. You can donate by visiting www.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Your donation helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters.