[Episcopal News Service] Episcopalians in Boulder County, Colorado, are beginning the long task of recovering from a devastating wildfire that destroyed about 1,000 homes and burned over 6,000 acres in Superior and Louisville, suburbs northwest of Denver, on Dec. 30 and 31.
Mike Orr, canon for communications and evangelism for the Diocese of Colorado, said that the Episcopal churches in the area had not been damaged but some parishioners had lost their homes. No deaths or major injuries were reported as of Jan. 2, though two people were missing, The New York Times reported.
“The rectors and priests in charge are coordinating some of those efforts on the ground to assess the immediate needs of those families right now, as well as the needs of people who don’t call themselves Episcopalians,” Orr told Episcopal News Service. “This week we’re going to be putting out a request for people who want to give to that cause and we’ll be coordinating that through the Office of the Bishop, setting up a way for people to apply for funds to meet their needs.”
Orr added that the Rev. Carl Andrews, the diocese’s disaster coordinator, is working with Episcopal Relief & Development, which has already provided an initial grant to the diocese.
The area affected by the wildfire, which had been suffering from a severe drought, was hit by high winds last week, including gusts of 108 miles per hour, which fanned the flames. Two days later, about a foot of snow blanketed the area, putting out the fire but hampering recovery efforts. Investigators continue to look for the cause of the wildfire.
During and after the wildfire, the Episcopal churches in the area shared status updates on social media, including the aid programs that are being deployed.
“The reality for many is nothing less than challenging. While it is indeed a miracle that the human fatality count remains at zero at this moment, the outlook for those who have lost homes and property involves difficult choices about the next steps.”
Holy Comforter is part of Broomfield VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), a network of nonprofits and community groups that are coordinating assistance, and Shakespeare said there are preliminary plans for the church to host a donation site for clothing and other supplies.
“The winds on [Dec. 30] took down a tree across the street from the rectory, and half of our fence,” wrote the Rev. Mary Kate Réjouis, rector of St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Boulder. “As the rest of that day unfolded, that loss is small in the context of what happened next. Thank you for your support in prayer and concern for our evacuated parish households, all of whom have found that their homes are intact. The impact of losing almost 1,000 buildings, almost all of them homes, within a few hours will be felt for years.”
Réjouis encouraged parishioners to donate to the Wildfire Fund established by the Community Foundation of Boulder County, and said she would use donations to her discretionary fund to help parishioners of the neighboring churches who were affected by the wildfire. She also warned that the long journey of recovery was just beginning.
“As much as I’d like to be able to do something, anything, right now, the long-haul needs are just unfolding,” she wrote. “On Friday morning, neighbors and I helped remove the tree across our neighbor’s drive, so she could access her car. That felt good – really good. A task to accomplish. I wish fire recovery were that easy. It’s not.”
Correction: The Rev. Mary Kate Réjouis’s surname was misspelled in an earlier version of this story.
– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.