American Red Cross volunteers continue to respond to a series of wildfires in Colorado, assisting threatened residents and first responders throughout the state.
Wildfires have plagued the state of Colorado throughout the month of June, with eleven active fires currently burning according to state emergency officials. The Red Cross has shelters open and volunteers helping those who have been recently evacuated due to the West Fork Complex Fire, while continuing to assist residents who were affected by wildfires earlier in June like the Black Forest Fire.
RESPONDING TO NEW WILDFIRES Making headlines, the West Fork Complex Fire which includes the Windy Pass Fire, West Fork Fire, and Papoose Fire areas has burned nearly 73,000 acres with zero percent containment and is now threatening the town of South Fork, blazing just miles outside the town. The Red Cross has shelters opens for evacuated residents and continues to support first responders combating the wildfire.
Derek Gentry, who moved into his new place in South Fork on Thursday, was evacuated on Friday, just the next day, along with all town residents. Saturday morning he found his way to the Red Cross shelter at Del Norte High School for a hot meal and updates about the wildfires in southwest Colorado.
“This fire is brutal,” said Gentry. With only 45 minutes to escape to a friend’s house as smoke and haze filled the air, Gentry grabbed his dog Inca and food for her, but left without anything for himself to eat. The homemade cinnamon rolls and egg casserole baked by the local Amish community at the shelter hit the spot.
The Red Cross also made several trips to the South Fork Fire Department delivering meals made by the Amish to feed hungry firefighters battling the blaze. The Red Cross is prepared to continue disaster relief efforts over the coming weeks, providing food and additional assistance to people affected by the wildfires.
RECOVERY BEGINS FOR SOME Meanwhile, Red Cross volunteers are helping communities get back on their feet in the aftermath of wildfires that are being contained. Red Cross volunteers have served nearly 30,000 meals and snacks and handed out more than 29,000 recovery and clean-up items such as rakes, gloves, shovels, coolers, clean-up kits, and comfort kits that contain hygiene items, toothbrushes and additional basic essentials.
Among these volunteers in Colorado include 11 Airmen from the U.S. Army who arrived at disaster headquarters to help load Red Cross emergency response vehicles (ERVs) with supplies and distribute goods to residents affected by the Black Forest fire. The solid teamwork of the 3-4 Aviation Helicopter Battalion was evident as cases of water, sheaths of shovels and stacks of buckets were relayed hand-to-hand, filling the ERV to capacity.
In addition, teams of Red Cross caseworkers, health workers and mental health experts are visiting communities throughout the state to offer resources, emotional comfort, and recovery assistance to areas devastated by the wildfires. Three fixed-site aid stations have been set up to distributed cleanup kits, water, snacks, informational resources, basic health services and emotional counseling. Red Cross workers have also made more than 2,600 health and mental health contacts to help affected residents cope with the devastation and loss.
When Dick Hoffmann went to the Red Cross aid station at School in the Woods June 19, he was greeted by volunteers eager to load his pickup truck with outdoor cleanup supplies.
“The Red Cross really cares about me and my family,” said Hoffman. “Everyone’s so helpful, coming up to me asking what I need -water, buckets, rakes, shovels.”
Volunteer Denise Brill went a step further and offered to help unload the truck for the Black Forest resident. Brill followed Hoffman to where his house used to stand on Hardin Road, now reduced to ash and twisted metal. Together, they walked around broken tea cups floating in gray soot and past a melted swing set where Hoffman’s grandson would play.
On the far side of the property a wishing well remains standing, untouched by the inferno – a sign of hope that Hoffman’s family can recover with support of volunteers like Brill who care and wish him the best.
PREPARE WITH WILDLFIRE SAFETY With wildfires burning in Arizona and California, and continued red flag warnings throughout the West, 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.