Smoke plumes were a frequent sight in Colorado this summer. Each new sighting was accompanied by feelings of foreboding and dread and worries of a new fire. Although no area Christian Reformed churches were directly affected by the fires, they partnered with a CRC agency to help those that were.
Carol and Walt Ackerman, World Renew/DRS representatives, consulted with Greg Ketchum, case management director for the Northern Colorado Long Term Recovery Group.
The High Park wildfire, located approximately six miles from Immanuel CRC, consumed more than 87,000 acres in the mountains west of Ft. Collins. Church members had friends and families who were evacuated.
Volunteers in Action (VIA), a ministry in Denver formed by area CRCs, coordinated efforts with other local nonprofits to provide support to those affected. Walt Ackerman, a VIA representative, explained that several nonprofits in the Ft. Collins area have established long-term recovery groups to assist fire survivors.
“The [recovery group] sends out grant requests for funding, home appliances, and other things that the survivors need. VIA, along with a FEMA representative, work alongside the fire survivors to provide guidance and assistance,” Ackerman said.
The group is currently trying to get agencies to see the urgency of obtaining trailers for survivors living in campers and tents on their property, as snow will soon fall in Colorado.
The Waldo Canyon wildfire consumed more than 18,000 acres of suburban Colorado Springs and was the most financially destructive wildfire in Colorado state history. VIA also established a recovery group in Colorado Springs, but the need there is somewhat different.
“Most of the areas that were destroyed were upper-middle or upper-income neighborhoods. A majority were fully insured, and [homeowners] are working to restore their properties and homes through the insurance process,” explained Todd Hilkemann, pastor of Cragmor CRC, about six miles from the fire perimeter. Cragmor had five families evacuated; none of them lost their homes. Many families in the church were able to house others who had been evacuated.