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Historic Fires Blaze Through Colorado

Direct Relief is offering support as Colorado battles the two largest wildfires in state history.

Flames from the East Troublesome Fire incinerated portions of Rocky Mountain National Park, as seen here on Oct. 23, 2020. Thousands have been evacuated from their homes as a result of the fires, the largest in state history. (Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain National Forest)
Flames from the East Troublesome Fire incinerated portions of Rocky Mountain National Park, as seen here on Oct. 23, 2020. Thousands have been evacuated from their homes as a result of the fires, the largest in state history. (Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain National Forest)

Colorado is battling a record-breaking wildfire season as an unseasonal drought plagues much of the state.

The Cameron Peak Fire – now the largest wildfire in Colorado history – surged in size this week amid dry, windy conditions. Since igniting this August, the blaze has burned over 200,000 acres west of Fort Collins and consumed more than 200 structures, one-third of which are homes. As of Friday, the fire was 57% contained. Colder weather is expected to assist suppression efforts over the weekend.

Engines from the Denver Fire Department respond to the East Troublesome Fire in Estes Park on Oct. 22, 2020. The engines were moving in to protect the Estes Park Health facility, an acute care hospital that was evacuated to protect patients from the encroaching fires. (Photo courtesy of the Denver Fire Department)
Engines from the Denver Fire Department respond to the East Troublesome Fire in Estes Park on Oct. 22, 2020. The engines were moving in to protect the Estes Park Health facility, an acute care hospital that was evacuated to protect patients from the encroaching fires. (Photo courtesy of the Denver Fire Department)

Just 10 miles away, the East Troublesome Fire has burned more than 170,000 acres after quadrupling in size Wednesday night. The fast-moving blaze – now the second-largest in state history – has forced hundreds to evacuate and at least 5 people have been reported missing. The blaze, only 10% contained, has the potential to merge with the nearby Cameron Peak Fire.

Northwest of Boulder, the Calwood Fire has burned over 10,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate. Nearly 30 homes have been damaged since the blaze ignited last weekend. The fire is currently 24% contained.

Direct Relief’s Response

As a California-based nonprofit disaster relief and medical assistance organization, Direct Relief responds each year to wildfires and other emergencies in both its home state and throughout the U.S., and has done so for decades.

In response to Colorado’s fires, Direct Relief is reaching out to organizations in Northern Colorado and sent an alert to partner health facilities this week to offer medical support. Wildfires prompt specific health concerns, and the fumes and particulates in the air can exacerbate chronic conditions like asthma.

Thick smoke from the East Troublesome Fire hovers over Rocky Mountain National Park, as seen here on Oct. 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain National Forest)
Thick smoke from the East Troublesome Fire hovers over Rocky Mountain National Park, as seen here on Oct. 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Rocky Mountain National Forest)

Another concern, compounded by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, are the health impacts facing evacuees. When residents are forced to evacuate, care for chronic conditions may be interrupted. If evacuees experience a disruption in their insulin supply or medicine for high blood pressure or asthma, once-manageable conditions can quickly escalate, prompting an emergency room visit, even as local health systems reach critical capacity.

So far this wildfire season, Direct Relief has supported more than 30 health centers, public emergency response offices, and county health departments across California and the Western U.S. with more than 80 deliveries of protective gear, respiratory aids, ophthalmic products, tetanus vaccines, and other requested medicines and supplies.

Direct Relief will respond to requests for wildfire assistance from partners in Colorado as needed.

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