BOULDER COUNTY, Colorado (KXAN) — With a 6,000-acre burn scar area and more than one thousand structures damaged from rampant wildfires this weekend in Colorado, Central Texas-based volunteers of the American Red Cross are assisting in disaster relief efforts for those displaced.
Based in Williamson County, Dr. Rik Chapman serves as planning section chief for current relief efforts, having assisted on numerous deployments around the country following natural disasters. Currently, Chapman said the Red Cross has approximately 100 volunteers based on-site in Boulder County, with an additional 30 people consolidating resources and coordinating next steps.
Chapman said this weekend’s wildfires classify as a Level 4 disaster, based on how many people are impacted and the estimated costs in damages. For context, a single-family house fire constitutes a Level 1 disaster; natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida are classified as Level 7.
Under current estimates, the fires affected 1,118 structures, with 991 destroyed and 127 classified with minor to severe damages.
“People on the ground are mainly focused on feeding, providing care, providing a safe, clean shelter for the folks where needed,” he said.
In the immediate onset of the wildfires, Chapman said hundreds sought refuge in Red Cross-run shelters. As many have now transitioned to long-term hotel stays or relocated to shelter with extended family, that number has dwindled to approximately 35.
“As people start recovering and moving back into the area, or moving into hotels or moving into relatives or friends’ [homes], people are leaving the shelter,” he said. “We’ve tried to make it comfortable, safe and convenient, but it’s not home.”
The Red Cross responds to approximately 60,000 disasters each year, he said, ranging in the level of severity. For the Colorado wildfires, he said the utmost priority is providing medical, mental health and spiritual care; food access; and continuing to shelter those before they’re able to relocate to a more permanent location.
And with those efforts comes a substantial cost, Chapman said. The Red Cross runs off donations, as opposed to federally funded tax dollars for natural disaster responses.
While it’s difficult to give a specific cost analysis, Chapman said he estimates anywhere from $2 million to $3 million in funds will be necessary to assist those impacted.
He said his hope is that, as those affected continue to navigate the unthinkable, the Red Cross’ resources will help them navigate this next stage of recovery.
“Part of our mission is to make them feel comforted by our presence,” he said.
Those in need of assistance can contact the Red Cross’ national call center at 1-800-928-4271. Information is also available on the Red Cross’ website on disaster relief effort donations as well as how to volunteer.