AUSTIN (KXAN) — At least one member of the Texas Red Cross central and south region is traveling to Colorado to respond to the wildfires that claimed hundreds of homes and displaced tens of thousands of people.
Richard McAlister, the volunteer communications director for the region, said the volunteer, Dr. Rik Chapman, is what they call a “planning manager” and is “a highly trained and experienced volunteer and has deployed multiple times across the nation in support of many natural disasters.”
Chapman will be serving as the planning chief for all Red Cross response operations in Colorado. McAlister says he’s currently the only volunteer from the central Texas area headed to Colorado but that “there will likely be more volunteers going to both Colorado and Kentucky in the near future.”
Tens of thousands of Coloradans were forced to flee from their homes after wind gusts blew over power lines, which started grass fires. Those fires quickly got out of control and have burned at least 580 homes, according to the Boulder County sheriff.
A Target shopping center and hotel were also confirmed to have burned as of Thursday night. Officials said the number of structures confirmed to have burned is likely to grow as crews get a handle on the fires and as more surveillance of the damage is done.
“This is the kind of fire we can’t fight head-on,” Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said. “We actually had deputy sheriffs and firefighters in areas that had to pull out because they just got overrun.”
Thursday’s wind was forecast to die down into Friday morning as a storm system moves through the area near Boulder. That system could bring a few inches of snow to the area devastated by wildfire.
Colorado’s Front Range, where most of the state’s population lives, had an extremely dry and mild fall, and winter so far has continued to be mostly dry. Denver set a record for most consecutive days without snow before it got a small storm on Dec. 10.