Wildfires continue to burn in Colorado, destroying everything in their path and forcing thousands of people to leave their homes to escape the flames. The American Red Cross is providing shelter, food, relief items and comfort to those affected.
More than 230 people sought refuge from the fires in Red Cross shelters Thursday night. The Red Cross is also present at the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center, where trained Red Cross caseworkers are meeting one-on-one with people to distribute relief supplies and offer other support, as well as provide preparedness and evacuation information for individuals who have not yet had to leave their homes. The Red Cross has additional volunteers, supplies and shelters on standby in case additional fires occur or additional evacuations are ordered. Since the fires started, the Red Cross has operated shelters, distributed more than 670 comfort kits and helped provide more than 2,300 meals and snacks.
According to officials, the Black Forest Fire in El Paso County and Royal Gorge Fire in Fremont County have destroyed hundreds of homes and thousands have had to evacuate. Dry winds are expected to keep the fire danger elevated in the region today.
EVACUEE’S STORY Julie Bohatch and her family were evacuated from their home Tuesday evening as the Black Forest Fire surged in their direction. Their home is located on the border of the mandatory evacuation zone and just a short distance from a fire station. "We are hoping that being close to a fire station will help our home survive" she said. "We had to move fast so we gathered the important things - the kids, the cat and the dogs - and just took off as fast as we could."
Bohatch and her family arrived at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs where the Red Cross had opened an evacuation shelter. She joined the other families that have similar stories and said that the attitude in the shelter is one of optimism and hope while recognizing the seriousness of the emergency. "I keep trying to look on the bright side of things and try to stay happy," she said.
Bohatch is very appreciative of the service provided by the Red Cross. "They even found a phone charger so that I can keep my phone running," she said, "That is just amazing."
WILDLFIRE SAFETY Due to the widespread nature of the fires, people living in the affected areas and surrounding communities are encouraged to update their social media with their “safe” status or register on the Red Cross Safe and Well secure website to let loved ones know they are okay.
Another thing people should do is download the free Red Cross Wildfire App, available in English or Spanish. The app puts help right in people’s hands, such as real time alerts and Red Cross shelter locations, as well as instant access to steps people should take before, during and after wildfires. Owners of Apple and Android devices can download the free app in the in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross. The app also features personalized local information and an “I’m Safe” feature to help people connect with loved ones if they need to evacuate.
Other safety steps include: