Evacuees from Lake Christine Fire find relief at evacuation center | AspenTimes.com

Evacuees from Lake Christine Fire find relief at evacuation center

Matthew Bennett
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
More than 500 homes were evacuated by Wednesday afternoon.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

As local, state and federal fire-fighting personnel fought the Lake Christine Fire on the Fourth of July, members of the American Red Cross and other volunteers assisted evacuees as best they could, given the circumstances, at Basalt High School.

“We’ve been open as an evacuation center since late yesterday afternoon (Tuesday), and it’s for people to come and get information, to use the restrooms, to get water refilled, you know, to get snacks …, ” Red Cross volunteer and on-site shelter manager Rheta Strong said.

About 35 people were at the shelter Wednesday afternoon, most of them outside tending to pets or taking pictures of the fire which was highly visible on the flanks of Basalt Mountain to the north.

By early Thursday morning, a second evacuation center had been established at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, as evacuation notices extended to the Missouri Heights and Cattle Creek areas.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Basalt shelter could not accept pets unless they were service animals, which left some evacuees, like Phil Rosenberg scrambling.

“We were evacuated around a quarter to one by the Sheriff’s Department. It’s hot out here, we have two dogs and we were going into the high school to talk to the Red Cross and figure out what facilities they had, what we were supposed to do,” Rosenberg explained. “We were going into the building to find out what services would be provided and we were barred from entering with our dogs. We were told we could tie them to a post in close to 90-degree heat.”

Other evacuees with pets also sat outside the school’s main entrance alongside their pets and water bowls.

“In the schools, they don’t allow domestic pets but they do allow service animals,” Strong explained of the policy. “We have several alternatives for people where they can take pets.”

Among them is Colorado Animal Rescue next to CMC’s Spring Valley campus.

“They’re accommodating animals up there, [but] because they are closed today their director is in contact with me and so anybody that needs to do that this evening needs to come here and get the information from me,” Strong said.

The shelter did provide dinner for evacuees between 5-7 p.m., and would offer a space for evacuees to spend the night if needed, according to Strong.

As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly 500 homes had been forced to evacuate.

One resident, Beatriz (who did not want her last name used) and her daughter originally planned on assisting those in need at the high school, but later became evacuees themselves.

Beatriz and her daughter both speak English and Spanish, and readily assisted any evacuee who needed translating help.

“I was worried about my sister who lives in El Jebel, but then when we came back to Basalt my house was too close to the fire and we had to evacuate,” Beatriz explained. “In the morning we were planning to help in some way … because I’m really conscience that in these cases the help is needed in many ways, so that was my first plan.”

Beatriz and her family, like so many others, have lived and compiled memories in their Basalt home for many years. However, as the fire raged, Beatriz and her daughter kept their minds occupied assisting others in any way they could.

“I don’t want to see someone who is struggling trying to speak and are unable to understand, so I am here and happy to help in that way or in another way,” Beatriz explained.