Sunday, June 16, 2013

Disaster Assessment For Black Forest Fire Began Sunday

Story and Photos by Bill Fortune, Disaster Public Affairs volunteer, Pikes Peak Area Chapter

The Disaster Assessment (DA) work for the Black Forest Fire began Sunday (6/16) as three DA volunteers got into a 4-wheel drive pickup early in the morning. The team leader, George Newell, along with team members Julie Utschig and Jenny Steenhoff, are seasoned disaster assessment volunteers. George and Julie worked the Waldo Canyon Fire and Jenny worked the Lower North Fork Fire in 2012.

The morning began with a detailed briefing and the review of "street sheets." These sheets are obtained from the Incident Command Post and provide a list of homes in the burn area. From that list, the assessment team drives through the area in an attempt to locate each residence. This can be a difficult task because address signs are often not clearly visible.

"We try to evaluate each home based on a 3-sided evaluation," said Newell. The team does a drive-by assessment of the front and each side to determine if the home was a total loss, partially damaged or not affected. The information is tallied for Red Cross use only so that recovery planning and support can begin. The numbers provided by the Disaster Assessment teams help the Red Cross decide what vehicles, supplies and manpower are needed to help with the recovery.

"This was the first day of disaster assessment; we have a long way to go,” Newell said. “The complexity of the terrain makes it a slower process." Newell also said that this is sometimes a difficult and emotional task when you consider the impact this kind of disaster has in families and the community.

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