Red Cross, Salvation Army coordinating in Vail area for Grizzly Creek fire evacuees

Aug 20, 2020 | by John LaConte

EDWARDS — The American Red Cross of Colorado and the Vail Valley Salvation Army have geared up at Battle Mountain High School to help evacuees of the Grizzly Creek Fire, but so far the two agencies’ services haven’t been required.

Peggy Johnson with American Red Cross said they had been deployed in Pueblo on an apartment fire evacuation before the Grizzly Creek Fire broke out.

Dan Smith with the Vail Valley Salvation Army received a call from the local chapter of the Red Cross saying they needed somebody capable of providing three meals per day to anyone who may need placement.

Smith and Johnson, along with many others, converged on Edwards where Smith has his 4-wheel drive canteen set up, ready to provide meals, while Johnson and the Red Cross work on housing.

Johnson said so far more than 65 rooms have been made available at places like The Tarnes, River’s Edge and Timber Ridge.

“We have rooms that have been donated by the local ski resorts, because this is offseason and they have employee quarters,” Johnson said.

Screenings in place

Communities north of Colorado River Road and in Dotsero have been under pre-evacuation orders, but no evacuations have occurred from those areas of the county so far. One family came into the Edwards evacuation center on Monday so they would know what to expect if they did have to evacuate, Johnson said.

Anyone may visit the facility with similar concerns, but everyone must have a temperature screening first.

“We have very strict orders,” Johnson said.

Other COVID-19 restrictions also in place at the Red Cross evacuation relief center include distancing protocols and mask requirements.

“We have a gym with bleachers set up where people can social distance,” Johnson said.

Other options

Smith said in a typical evacuation situation in Eagle County, only 5 percent of evacuees would actually require emergency placement.

“Mostly, people will go to their friends'” Smith said. “That’s just the way Colorado is. But with a fire like this, where you can’t get to Glenwood, and Two Rivers Village is actually closer to Glenwood than it is to Gypsum, we might have a little more.”

Smith said evacuation services could be expanded into relief areas like the Edwards Interfaith Chapel and the I-70 Regional Transportation Operations Facility, otherwise known as the bus barn, on Swift Gulch Road in Avon.

“Beyond that, that’s where the Red Cross comes in,” Smith said. “Or FEMA.”

Up to this point, the joint operation between Red Cross and the Salvation Army has been able to take advantage of Smith’s quick response time here in Eagle County, as he keeps the mobile canteen ready in Avon, and the longer-term relief resources offered from the Red Cross, which coordinates on a larger scale.

“We work well together,” Smith said.

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