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Red Cross Helping Those Affected By Wildfires

Wildfires continue to burn in the west, forcing people to leave their homes. In Colorado, the fire has burned more than 56,000 acres and destroyed more than 180 homes, while the fire in New Mexico has destroyed more than 38,000 acres and burned more than 250 homes.

The American Red Cross continues to operate shelters and offer meals, relief supplies and health and mental health assistance to those affected. Weather officials say dry conditions and high winds will produce critical fire weather and red flag warnings for all of Nevada and Utah today, as well as much of Colorado, California, Arizona, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming and Nebraska.


Patti and Jerry Ellmann could see the smoke from atop 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.

Kim and baby Lukas Sanderson enjoy a little ice cream before the community briefing on the status of their home. The have been displaced for five days and have visited the shelter for food, supplies and much needed information. Photo Credit: American Red Cross

They live at the base of Rist Canyon, one of the areas that 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.

The Ellmanns have been married for 49 years and became Red Cross volunteers in January. They are trained to drive Red Cross emergency response vehicles. The couple 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 recovery supplies 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.

SAFETY TIPS If you live in an area currently under wildfire alert:

  • Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information.
  • Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
  • Confine pets to one room so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
  • Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.

Get more information by reading the Red Cross Wildfire Safety Checklist.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.