Red Cross volunteers in Steamboat prepare for fire danger

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— A group of Red Cross volunteers in Steamboat Springs, several of whom just returned from working with victims of the High Park Fire outside Fort Collins, will spend part of this weekend examining the contents of a trailer containing enough cots and blankets to shelter as many as 50 people evacuated from their homes because of wildfire.

“I hope this won’t happen in Routt County and all of Northwest Colorado,” veteran Red Cross volunteer Sarah Cherry said. “The horror on the Front Range is bad. But I’m hoping it means our communities will be better prepared and will evacuate when asked if we were to have a fire.”

Cherry, along with Marne Roberts and Nancy Perricone, worked at a community center in Fort Collins where evacuated residents could access a variety of forms of support, from insurance adjusters to representatives of the Humane Society and mental health counselors who stand by as residents receive updates on the status of homes within the boundaries of the fire area.

Local volunteer Joanne Erickson said the supplies in the trailer are meant to be sufficient for local volunteers to support those 50 people through the first 24 hours after they are asked to leave their homes. There are other trailers based in nearby towns and cities on the Western Slope to support the Red Cross philosophy of building scalability into its disaster response, Cherry said.

The process of going through the contents of the trailer this weekend is meant to ensure the local volunteers are prepared to respond quickly. Beyond the first 24 hours, more volunteers and trailers from across Northwest Colorado, and even the nation, can be brought in if necessary.

Tentatively, the Steamboat Springs Community Center has been identified as a likely evacuation center, Cherry said, because it is centrally located and accessible. But ultimately, the Red Cross would defer to local emergency managers who would base the decision on the level of need and proximity of the shelter to the fire. Emergency managers don’t want them so close that fire can threaten them and lead to a second evacuation, Cherry said.

Should evacuations persist, it’s likely a shelter separate from the community gathering place would be set up, Cherry said, and that likely would be a facility, like a school, with showers.

Red Cross volunteers also are meeting with residents in other communities in the region this week, Cherry said. Erickson said seven volunteers attended an organizational meeting last weekend, but there are about 15 volunteers on the list.

The volunteers in Routt County are coordinated by Jody Acres, the Red Cross disaster services manager for the Northwest Area, Erickson said. However, just as soon as Acres returned from the High Park Fire to Summit County, she was summoned to a fire that broke out in Eagle County.

Since June 9, the Red Cross has served more than 3,000 meals and snacks in Colorado, provided 3,600 health and mental health contacts and handed out more than 4,900 relief items.

In the Fort Collins and Colorado Springs areas, Cherry said, many of the evacuees seemed to have the financial resources to find motel rooms to stay in on their own. And she speculated that with Steamboat’s large base of guest accommodations, finding accommodations for people who might be evacuated from their homes could be facilitated with relative ease.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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