Red Cross, volunteers stepped up during fire season

The dire warnings that officials gave us about the potential for a difficult wildfire season in Colorado in 2012 became true.

More than 600 homes have been destroyed, four people have been killed and more than 170,000 acres burned in one of Colorado’s worst wildfire seasons ever. On the scene at each of these devastating fires was your American Red Cross. From High Park to Waldo Canyon to the Weber Fire, our Red Cross staff and volunteers spent thousands of hours making sure that residents as well as emergency responders were taken care of during this horrific time.

Here in Southwest Colorado, we quickly responded to the Weber Fire, just outside of the town of Mancos. We set up an evacuation point that residents could respond to for information and we made food available in town. Once the fire started to encroach on town and the smoke became extremely thick at the center, we moved our operation to Cortez High School where we could serve a larger group of residents as well as provide them a safe place to stay.

We also worked closely with local and federal firefighting teams as well as local law enforcement to make sure all needs were met. We could not have been able to do all of this without our great partners in the community. We want to take the time to thank these businesses that donated food and water to us during the incident:

Walmart of Durango

Walmart of Cortez

El Pancho Burro restaurant

Millwood Junction Restaurant

The Dock Restaurant

Dennys of Cortez

McDonald’s of Cortez

Pizza Hut of Cortez

Wendys of Cortez

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe

The Shane Ranch of Mancos

Rock Springs Church

And numerous residents who dropped off water and snacks for the firefighters.

We could not have been as effective in providing these services without their help.

The backbone of our services continues to be our volunteers. During the Weber Fire, our volunteers in Durango and Cortez assisted in evacuation centers, shelters and in the field serving residents and first responders. We appreciated the time they took away from their jobs and families to serve their community. We are always looking at adding to our cadre of dedicated volunteers and welcome anyone who might be interested in joining us.

So, where would our community be without the American Red Cross? I would like to think that we would suffer a great loss. Who would care for a family that loses everything in a fire? Who would make sure our firefighters and police officers get fed on the scene of an emergency response? Who would teach our community how to be prepared for any disaster?

We are still one of the least funded nonprofits in La Plata County. We rely on your donations to continue to provide these services for free to our community. This past wildfire season should show our community how important the American Red Cross is for the viability of a community.

We ask that you remember all we did and honor us with a donation that will allow us to continue these important services in Southwest Colorado.

Cindi Shank is executive director of the Southwest Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross.