Blazes impact lives of LDS families

Church assisting relief agencies

DENVER, Colo. — Wildfires raging in Colorado 50 miles west of Denver caused the evacuation of 75 LDS families among other evacuees as of June 11.

Elder Donald L. Staheli of the Seventy, North America Central Area president, reported that the member families had been evacuated and were staying with other members or with relatives. None of their homes had been damaged, all missionaries were reported safe, and there had been no damage to Church property.

Garry R. Flake, director of Humanitarian Services and LDS Charities, said June 11 that requests had come from relief agencies, including the American Red Cross, for assistance from the Church. In response, a truck loaded with supplies, including blankets and hygiene kits, was dispatched some three hours later and was scheduled to arrive by 9 a.m. the following morning. One meetinghouse in the area had been designated as a possible emergency shelter.

Local Church leaders were providing needed assistance to members using local welfare resources.

In Glenwood Springs, where a 10,000-acre blaze destroyed 24 homes, Bishop J. Fred Jex of the Glenwood Springs Ward said 17 families in the ward comprising 45 members were evacuated over a four-hour period and situated with other member families.

Flames from the Coal Seam fire rise from the trees west of Glenwood Springs, Colo., Monday, June 10, 2002. The fire near Glenwood Springs was 5 percent contained Monday as improved weather allowed airplanes to resume bombing the flames with retardant. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

"The ward members just really did what they're supposed to do," Bishop Jex said. "They made places for them and fed them. And some of the families only had 10 or 15 minutes to put everything together to get out."

By the afternoon of June 11, Bishop Jex said, the families were restored to their homes, and the ward was turning its attention to cleanup efforts. He said it was remarkable that while the fire had destroyed some homes, it had spared others right next to them.

By the morning of June 12, wire services were reporting that a 77,000-acre fire near Denver — the largest in Colorado history — appeared to have changed course after a shift in wind direction. There were hopes that some 6,000 evacuated residents in two counties southwest of Denver might be able to return to their homes.

Known as the Hayman fire, it was started by an illegal campfire and was one of at least eight blazes in Colorado.