Red Cross estimates millions in aid needed for Colorado wildfire recovery

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KXAN) – With a 6,000-acre burn scar area and more than a thousand structures damaged by rampant wildfires in Colorado this weekend, American Red Cross volunteers based in central Texas are helping with disaster relief efforts for the displaced.

Based in Williamson County, Rik Chapman is the Planning Section Chief for Current Relief Efforts, having participated in numerous deployments across the country in the aftermath of natural disasters. Currently, Chapman said the Red Cross has about 100 volunteers based locally in Boulder County, with an additional 30 people consolidating resources and coordinating next steps.

Chapman said this weekend’s wildfires were classified as a Level 4 disaster, based on the number of people affected and the estimated costs of the damage. For the context, a single-family house fire constitutes a level 1 disaster; natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida are classified at level 7.

According to current estimates, the fires affected 1,118 structures, of which 991 were destroyed and 127 classified with minor to severe damage.

“People on the ground are mainly focused on food, providing care, providing safe and clean shelter to people in times of need,” he said.

From the start of the wildfires, Chapman said hundreds of people sought refuge in shelters run by the Red Cross. As many have now switched to long-term hotel stays or moved to a shelter with extended family, that number has dropped to around 35.

“As people start to recover and come back to the area, or move into hotels or move in with relatives or friends” [homes], people are leaving the shelter, ”he said. “We have tried to make it comfortable, safe and convenient, but it is not with us.”

“Part of [the American Red Cross’] mission is to comfort them with our presence.

Dr rik chapman, head of the planning section, american red cross

The Red Cross responds to around 60,000 disasters each year, he said, depending on the level of severity. For the Colorado wildfires, he said, the top priority is providing medical, mental health and spiritual care; access to food; and continue to house these people before they can move to a more permanent location.

And with those efforts comes a substantial cost, Chapman said. The Red Cross runs donations, as opposed to federally funded public money for natural disaster response.

While it is difficult to give an accurate cost analysis, Chapman said he estimated that between $ 2 million and $ 3 million in funds would be needed to help those affected.

He said he hoped that as those affected continue to navigate the unthinkable, Red Cross resources will help them through this next stage of recovery.

“Part of our mission is to comfort them with our presence,” he said.

Those in need of assistance can contact the National Red Cross Call Center at 1-800-928-4271. Information is also available on the Red Cross website at disaster relief donations as good as how to volunteer.

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