In response to several major wildfires in Colorado, Direct Relief has shipped 14 deliveries of critical medicines and medical supplies to three health centers treating people affected by the smoke and flames.
During the Black Forest Fire, Mission Medical Clinic and Open Bible Medical Clinic – both in Colorado Springs – expanded their care under the emergency circumstances to help treat anyone affected. Both clinics typically serve low-income and uninsured populations, but opened their services and supplies to all displaced by evacuation or suffering from side effects of the smoke.
Burning 16,000 acres in nine days, the now-contained Black Forest Fire – the most destructive in Colorado’s history – killed two people, destroyed more than 500 homes, and caused nearly 40,000 people to evacuate their homes, according to CNN.
Another health center partner, Valley Wide Health Systems in Alamosa, is situated between the East Peak and West Fork Complex fires and is a key part of their county’s disaster response plan. The clinic – which has various sites throughout southern Colorado – serves more than 36,000 patients, more than a third of which are uninsured.
Valley Wide is treating affected patients as firefighters continue battling both fires, which have burned thousands of acres and forced mandatory evacuations.
During wildfires, the care offered by health centers and clinics such as these three becomes crucial. Wildfires pose serious health risks beyond the flames themselves.
The smoke contains particulate matter that can hurt the eyes, irritate the respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung conditions, especially in children. Additionally, any rapid, mass evacuation raises general health risks for evacuees, particularly those who require medications to manage chronic conditions, like asthma and diabetes. These treatments are often forgotten when people rush to flee their homes in an emergency.
Direct Relief continues to monitor the situation and is prepared to continue supporting ongoing efforts to care for patients affected by the fires. About a dozen fires have burned across the state this June. The medicines and supplies shipped to date are valued at more than $233, 000.
*Natalie Pate, Direct Relief’s intern correspondent based out of Colorado contributed to this update.
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