Wind-Driven Wildfires Force Mass Evacuations in Colorado Communities

Direct Relief is responding with medical support and information and analysis for responding agencies.

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Wildfires

A neighbor tries to put out a fire near a house in Superior, Colorado, on December 30, 2021. Fierce winds whipped wildfires in Boulder County last week, and many homes and businesses burned after hurricane-force winds pushed the flames forward. (Getty Images)

Fast-moving wildfires swept through Colorado communities last week, destroying about 1,000 homes and forcing thousands to evacuate. The Marshall Fire, burning near Boulder, had burned more than 6,000 acres as of Monday.

Since the fires broke out on Dec. 30, Direct Relief has been in communication with the Colorado Primary Care Association and Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, or VOAD, as well as local health providers in the fire zone and others receiving an influx of evacuees, including clinics in Westminster and Longmont.

Direct Relief supported health facilities in Colorado with a dozen shipments of medical aid in December 2021, including health providers in fire zone areas or nearby communities receiving evacuees, such as the Loveland Community Health Center in Loveland and Doctors Care, a free clinic in Littleton.

Direct Relief has also been analyzing population movement from the fire zone to surrounding communities, and has been sharing that data with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other responders, with the goal of helping them allocate and distribute resources most effectively.

The organization has a long history of responding to wildfires, particularly in the Western U.S., and maintains an inventory of medical aid commonly requested by health providers during fires.

In addition to the immediate threats of burns, smoke inhalation and other acute health impacts from fires, poor air quality can exacerbate breathing conditions like asthma.

As people quickly evacuate their homes, they may leave behind medicines needed to manage chronic diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure. If left unmanaged, those conditions can escalate into emergency situations, requiring high levels of care at hospitals that may already be stretched thin.

When an emergency such as a wildfire occurs, requests for medical assistance are often made in the days and weeks afterward, as health care providers, emergency response managers, and others on the ground take stock of medical needs. Direct Relief is prepared to meet a wide range of requests for medical support in the coming days and weeks.

The organization is in communication with local responders about ongoing needs and is ready to respond.

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