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Red Cross rises to the occasion

Tamie Meck

Shortly after the severity of the Coal Seam Fire became apparent on Saturday afternoon, the American Red Cross rolled up its sleeves.

The benevolent organization and its employees and volunteers quickly set up a temporary shelter at the Spring Valley Campus of Colorado Mountain College.

An information center was also established at Glenwood Springs High School to help disseminate information to members of this stunned community.

State Farm Insurance representatives had an information table at the center and were answering insurance questions and taking calls.

The information center at the high school was abuzz with activity Sunday.

“We’re just passing whatever information we can onto people,” said Randy Bogart, a Red Cross resource coordinator from Grand Junction. About 10 specially trained volunteers, local and from chapters across the state, manned the center.

Most people walking in the door Sunday had been evacuated from their West Glenwood, No Name and Midland Avenue homes the previous night. Some had very specific questions about the status of their homes and when they could get back to them, while others sought information on shelter, or asked where they could get something to eat and drink.

Alex Kosnicki lives and works at the 1st Choice Inn and was at work when the area was evacuated. “They let me back in to check that my stuff was all right,” said Kosnicki early Sunday afternoon, while enjoying some of the snacks and beverages offered at the center.

George Kale, whose home was also safe, said he stayed with a friend Saturday night. He wasn’t sure where to stay until he could get home. That, he learned at the center, may be Wednesday or later.

“The people helped me out, but they aren’t prepared to keep people long-term,” said Kale.

Sisters Brigitt and Anna Hakanson said they had about 60 seconds to evacuate their home on Donegan Road Saturday night. They sat passing time with their three dogs under a row of shade trees at the high school.

“We saw the flames coming up over the ridge and we started to run,” said Anna. They later learned that their house escaped damage. The Hakanson family was staying with friends in Basalt until they could return home.

Among the information available through the Red Cross was a list of the names of people offering a place to sleep or a shower for one or more of the approximately 2,000 residents and visitors displaced by the fire. The names of Robin and Ken Garvik were among the half-dozen on the list.

By mid-afternoon, the Garviks, who live at the Ranch at Roaring Fork, hadn’t received a call, but were sitting by the phone just in case.

“Anything to help,” said Ken Garvik. “We’re glad to have something to offer.”

An “FYI” list helped to calm some of the worst fears people had about the massive blaze and to squelch rumors.

“No. 1.,” the list of about a dozen items starts, “The Community Center did not burn.

“No. 1. The Mall did not burn.

“No. 1. The Bus Barn did not burn.

“No. 2. Evacuation remains until further notice …”

Insurance claims adjusters Leanne Kuhn and Mike Cooper, from State Farm Insurance, dealt with anxious customers, most of whom were calling in.

“We are here to answer questions, and just to be here,” said Kuhn, of Glenwood Springs. “We’re pretty much here to help people who have suffered damage, and to help out any way we can.”

Kuhn said anyone whose home or business suffered damage from the fire should contact their insurance agent as soon as possible and get the claims process started. State Farm customers will have their calls patched through to the central claims office in Greeley.

“A lot of these people don’t have anything but the clothes on their backs,” said Kuhn. In such cases, the insurance company can start writing checks to cover costs for necessities and shelter.

The information center will remain open from approximately 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, until further notice.

To contact the American Red Cross, call 800-417-0495.


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