Valley officials coordinate relief |

Valley officials coordinate relief

Chad Abraham

Tetanus, the local responsibilities of emergency workers and the social ramifications of welcoming poor people from the Gulf Coast into the ultra-expensive Roaring Fork Valley were among the topics discussed at a meeting of officials from multiple agencies Wednesday morning.The meeting, at an El Jebel fire station, was an attempt to streamline the valley’s growing response in assisting the region ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in the nation’s history.At the meeting, Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob said four firefighters from the valley left Tuesday to join two other local firefighters already helping out in New Orleans. And Basalt Fire Chief Scott Thompson, updated the nearly 50 officials in attendance on the status of the emergency management team that has been on standby to deploy since last Tuesday.It is not surprising that the team, which has expertise in supervising manpower and running logistical operations in disasters, was still on standby Wednesday.”Nobody’s requesting the right type of resources,” said Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach, leader of the emergency management team, of overwhelmed Gulf officials.Still, Leach said, “It is not a matter of if, but when” local rescue personnel travel to the region to relieve others.”These requests will be ongoing for months,” he said.When local emergency workers do get to the Gulf Coast, they need to have current hepatitis and tetanus shots, Yvonne Hernandez, the county’s health services director, reminded the department heads. She also talked about the bacteria rampant in the floodwaters.The water, according to the Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, smells like a combination of sewage and rotting fish, and other news agencies reported that it has tested positive for lead and gasoline.”If I had a cut and water got in it, I’d demand antibiotics,” Hernandez said.Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said he has offered his department’s resources to a state response team that is coordinating with 47 other states and the federal government.”In this country, no state stands alone,” he said.The Colorado Response Team is asking for 16-day commitments from those trained in emergency response and management. Rescue workers are ready to help, but many of the supervisors at the meeting said it is paramount that local responsibilities do not go by the wayside.”We don’t want a manpower shortage here,” Thompson said.An Aspen Valley Hospital board member said Louisiana officials have passed a measure allowing anyone with a medical license to practice in the state. Local doctors and nurses have been inquiring about how they can help, another official said.When the issue of providing housing to Gulf residents came up, at least one official questioned the idea of relocating refugees to the Roaring Fork Valley, as Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland suggested Tuesday.”Aspen is not the place for refugees,” said Nan Sundeen, the county’s director of health and human services. “They could not afford to live here.”She said urban centers on the Front Range would offer better support systems.”As painful as this is to say, it isn’t fair to bring them up here when the cost of living is 300, 400, 500 times higher than what they’re used to,” Sundeen said. “Will we love and embrace them? Yes. Is there a future here for this population? Probably not.” The consensus was that elected officials need to remain in the loop on the options available to Gulf refugees.Grob also suggested sending a party of local officials to Texas to study how the state is absorbing thousands of people whose homes and lives have been destroyed.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is

There was nothing anyone could say to Rick Balentine that would have prevented him from rushing to the Big Easy last week.”He was going, one way or another,” Aspen Fire Chief Darryl Grob said about his firefighter, who has family all over the Gulf Coast.Balentine was persuaded not to go alone to rescue extended family members – fellow Aspen firefighter Bill McEnteer joined him – and to bring along medical supplies.Speaking at a meeting of the valley’s emergency agencies Wednesday, Grob said all of Balentine’s family survived the storm.Balentine and McEnteer have been performing a variety of services while working on the western edge of what is left of New Orleans, Grob said. The two recently helped direct a convoy of 680 firefighters and 106 fire trucks from Chicago to a base near New Orleans, he said.Also en route to the Gulf Coast region are four other firefighters from the valley who are bringing a water-tender truck from Basalt. The truck is designed to draw water from streams, lakes and hydrants.The firefighters, who were somewhere in Kansas on Wednesday, are Chris Hopkins of Aspen, Greg Bailey and Brian Benton of Basalt, and Oak Applegate of the Carbondale Fire Department. They are also driving a chase truck that can provide mechanical support, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach, who is leading a local effort to coordinate rescue and relief in the Gulf region, said the local contingent is ready to help wherever needed.”We anticipate their roles to be in the areas of support, management and organization,” he said in the release. “But they are willing to do whatever is needed to aid the exhausted emergency workers, even if it means sweeping the floors.”

A growing list of local restaurants are participating in a nationwide hurricane relief effort called “Save New Orleans Cocktail Hour” from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday. During that time, bar customers can raise a toast to benefit displaced New Orleans food and beverage industry workers. New Orleans-style cocktails will be available for $10; proceeds will benefit a special tax-deductible relief fund established by the Museum of the American Cocktail, the organization that started this project. Of 78 participating restaurants and bars, Aspen-area eateries currently include Jimmy’s, the Hotel Jerome, Kenichi and Willow Creek Bistro. Mardi Gras beads donated by Jimmy’s will be given out for each cocktail ordered. Visit for the latest information on this project. The United Way of Garfield County is hosting a public forum at 5:30 p.m. today at the Glenwood Springs council chambers to discuss what is being done and by whom. Representatives from the Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Garfield County Housing Authority, United Way, Catholic Charities USA, United Methodist Church in Basalt and others will participate; former Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri will moderate. Valley TV will televise the public forum live and rebroadcast it on local community channels. For more information, contact Leslie Robinson at 625-8189 or The Rotary Club of Aspen is asking members for donations to the Rotary Katrina Fund. Funds will be delivered to Rotary District 6200 in Lafayette, La., and are intended for use in rebuilding projects in the coming months. Make checks payable to: Aspen Rotary Club Foundation and write in the memo “Katrina Relief Fund.” Those looking for a tangible way of helping can assist one woman impacted by the hurricane. Shandra Earl, a single mother living in Baton Rouge, opened her home to 12, possibly 13, hurricane victims. Anything but food (she has food stamps) – such as gift cards to Target, Costco, Wal-Mart, or chain restaurants in the Baton Rouge area – can be sent to Shandra Earl, 8056 Sky Sail Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70820. Her phone number is (225) 819-1941. The city of Aspen is providing a central contact person for the city’s involvement in hurricane relief efforts. Linda Gerdenich, the city’s community relations director, is organizing the flow of ideas and providing direction for those wanting to volunteer, make a donation or help the relief efforts in any way. She can be reached at 920-5082 or 948-2478, or by e-mail at The Sky Hotel is spearheading a clothing drive for refugees in Houston and San Antonio. Rocky Mountain Connections has stepped up as the Sky’s shipping sponsor. Clothing can be brought to Rita Brooks or Melina Glavas at the hotel from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily this week. St. Mary’s Blood Center is conducting a blood drive in Basalt from noon to 3 p.m. today. The Bloodmobile will be in the parking lot at Curves gym, 23280 Two Rivers Road. Call 927-1818 for information on this blood drive. Willow Creek Bistro, in the Ritz Carlton at Aspen Highlands, is serving New Orleans gumbo for $5 per cup throughout September. All proceeds go directly to the American Red Cross. Carl’s Pharmacy in Aspen has donation boxes at the front registers. A Red Cross account has been set up at Alpine Bank. The bank and a local couple are matching any funds donated, up to $50,000. Donations can be made by phone at (800) HELP NOW (435-7669), or online at with hurricane relief information may contact Catherine at 925-3414, ext. 234, by fax at 925-9156, or by e-mail at

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