High Park Disaster Recovery Center Opens
With some High Park Fire evacuees out of their homes indefinitely, questions are starting to come up that go beyond immediate needs for food, clothes and shelter. That’s prompted Larimer County to open a place that offers help with the bigger questions.
The Disaster Recovery Center got off to a slow start during its first official morning on the Colorado State University campus. A giant room in Johnson Hall is filled with tables staffed by people from various county agencies including the Health Department. Sitting near the door behind a laptop is volunteer Christina Olivas doing intake with evacuees.
“No one knows what to expect,” says Olivas, who’s a high school senior. “Even if their place is there they have no idea what they’re going to do.”
But High Park evacuee John Fialko who lives in the Davis Ranch area had a game plan on Friday morning. He says he’s not 100 percent sure, but he thinks his home was destroyed by the High Park Fire. He came looking for longer term housing, and got a list of phone numbers to call.
“It’s a variety of contacts, everything from apartment complexes to the housing authority to whoever,” says Fialko, who says he made a connection with a former student who may be able to help him out in Loveland. Fialko is a former high school teacher.
Meantime, the Larimer County Department of Human Services is giving out everything from bus passes to cash assistance. Not everyone qualifies for money, according to Human Service’s Tammy Olivas. But she says she’s helped at least one home-based business that’s been left without tools.
“We’ve been able to help give them some cash assistance to replace those, as well as some food assistance to get by over the next few months,” she says.
And whenever evacuees are allowed back to their homes, Larimer County Department of Health and the Environment’s Jane Viste says there are health concerns—especially for those whose homes have been damaged.
“You’re going to be dealing with ash issues, you’re going to be dealing with debris, you’re going to be dealing with old rotting food—although that might be burned. You’re probably dealing with slurry or fire retardant dropped,” she says.
All the more reason to get a tetanus shot, which the Department will be giving out free on Monday morning at 9 a.m. at the Disaster Recovery Center.
Other health offerings include free acupuncture treatments for firefighters and evacuees. That’s happening at the Northside Aztlan Community Center in Fort Collins over the next two weeks.