Heading Home can be Dangerous

July 11, 2018

Story by David Owens

At a dusty, ash-covered crossroads on the western slope of Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains, half an hour’s drive from the nearest paved road, American Red Cross volunteers set up a supply distribution point to aid people as they return to their fire-ravaged homes.

Distributing supplies to a line of cars. Photo by David Owens/Red Cross

Residents only have a few hours to check on their houses and recover what belongings they can, as the area is still not deemed fully safe by the firefighting crews that drive back and forth providing protection during the re-entry period.  Smoldering trees by the sides of the gravel roads occasionally erupt into flames, and burned-out husks of trees threaten to fall over.

Many of the homes are reduced to towering stone chimneys next to a pile of ash. A wide variety of supplies, including shovels, water, work gloves, rakes, and sifting screens to sort through the ashes, are passed out to the returning people of Costilla County. Red Cross stress counselors are on-hand to provide comfort, and a hot dinner will be waiting for them in the Red Cross shelter at Fort Garland after they make the long, lonely drive back down the mountain.

Red Cross supplies for evacuees reentering their neighborhoods.

As people return to their homes there will be additional needs. Red Cross stands ready to provide support through our individual recovery assistance. Anyone affected by the Colorado wildfires can call our casework hotline to speak with a case worker. That number is 719-785-2768.