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Monday, August 17, 2015

Gov. Hickenlooper honors Red Cross and partners for Black Forest Fire Efforts

Photos and story by Thea Skinner
The Black Forest community, the American Red Cross, and their partners dedicated the Black Forest Fire Memorial during a ceremony August 15 -- a symbol of nurturing and rebuilding the community.

The Black Forest Fire of June 11, 2013, is considered the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history. The disaster resulted in two lives lost, burned 14,280 acres and destroyed about 486 homes.

“This community more than any banded together,” said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “This community could have given up or lost hope, but they did not do that.”

The memorial dedicates the lives lost of Marc and Robin Herklotz, and displays a listing of 132 agencies that combined efforts to assist in disaster response and recovery. The structure, created out of wood reclaimed from burned trees, is complete with two Japanese trees located near the historic Black Forest Log House and pavilion.

Thomas Gonzalez, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado,
accepts a certificate of appreciation with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper
during the Black Forest Fire Memorial Dedication Ceremony.

“The log house is a symbol of the community. Until you are there [in a disaster] you do not realize the gravity. I say this to all the first responders in Colorado we thank you for your sacrifice. The state is here with you to work to rebuild it,” said Governor Hickenlooper.

Red Cross representatives, serving through 90 percent volunteer efforts, received high regard. The Red Cross aided in restoring dignity and shelter to residents whose homes were damaged or burned.
“You don’t realize how many lives you have touched,” said Alphie Hutmacher, board member of Black Forest Together to Red Cross staff and volunteers.
The crowd at the Black Forest Fire Memorial Dedication Ceremony.

“[Red Cross worker] Sally Broomfield has been like a sister to me,” said Nancy Bracken, president of the Black Forest Community Foundation and co-founder of Black Forest Together.

Black Forest Together, a non-profit organization, among others, actively engaged the community during the disaster.

In response to the fire and other wildfires burning throughout Colorado in June 2013, the Red Cross and its partners provided a total of 11 separate shelters, distributed more than 40,000 clean-up items and recovery supplies, served more than 66,000 meals, made more than 4,500 health and mental health contacts with affected residents, registered 470 individuals in Safe and Well, distributed 2,200 comfort kits containing hygiene items, toothbrushes and other basic essentials. Read more about the Red Cross response in this report. 

Rich Harvey, presently serving in California fires, is of the Great Basin Incident Management Team 2, and served as incident commander for both the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires.

“A fire like the Black Forest Fire or Waldo Canyon, is not fought by one person, one engine or one department, but by teamwork. Firefighters and the community united by common cause dedicated to their task, be it the working end of a hose or another command and general staff meeting,” said Harvey.

The memorial tribute is a testament to collaborative efforts of many.
 “It is too bad Waldo Canyon had to happen, but we all learned from it,” said Congressman Doug Lamborn from Colorado’s fifth district."Your spirit is a tribute to the lives lost.”

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