Red Crosser talks about experience helping Colorado wildfire victims

American Red Cross staff and volunteers at the disaster relief headquarters in Loveland, Colo. Photo by Betsy Boesch

The wildfires in Colorado destroyed over 18,000 acres of land and more than 350 homes, resulting in the evacuation of 30,000 people from Colorado Springs and other surrounding communities.

As you know, when disaster strikes, the American Red Cross responds.

Betsy Boesch, an employee at the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts who works with volunteer management for disaster services, was deployed for nine days at the end of June to help work in staff services – taking care of the needs of volunteers. She was in charge of everything from helping issue credit cards for those in need to finding opportunities for local community groups and assigning volunteers.

She started in the Red Cross’ Disaster Relief Headquarters located in Loveland, Colo. and was then transferred to Colorado Springs two days later where most of the devastation occurred. The American Red Cross set up five shelters and provided 350 volunteers to help.

When Betsy arrived, the wildfires were only contained about 5 percent. Nine days later when she left, the fire was 95 percent contained.

“Along with that came a great sense of hope,” she said.

Betsy visited two shelters during her time of stay, assisting the volunteers with their basic needs. President Barack Obama also reported to the burn area, visiting the YMCA shelter in Colorado Springs, Betsy said.

When asked about the wildfires, Betsy said many Colorado residents were scared.

“I think a lot of people were scared because they didn’t know if their homes were still standing,” she said. “They had no idea what they were coming home to.”

Betsy has been deployed locally multiple times and has experienced many disasters in this community, but this was her first time being sent out to that part of the country.

“I’ve seen the devastation from hurricanes and how it can wipe out communities, but this was just something different,” she said.

At the scene of the wildfires, the American Red Cross partnered with organizations such as the Southern Baptist Church and the Salvation Army providing food and supplies for the shelters. Both organizations helped comfort the victims of

the fire and the volunteers who responded to the disaster.

 “It was a great experience, I would do it again,” said Betsy. “… in like a couple of months.”

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