(Photo: Samaritan's Purse)
Disaster relief teams with the North Carolina-based Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse arrived in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week where the massive Black Forest fire burned more than 14,000 acres, destroyed nearly 500 homes and claimed two lives. Since setting up its Disaster Relief Unit on Wednesday at a local church, the ministry has already received requests for help from 190 homeowners, say officials.
"The fire has taken a terrible toll on people in Colorado Springs," said Samaritan's Purse President Franklin Graham. "We will have teams of volunteers working with the homeowners to salvage anything the flames left behind and to not only help them recover physically, but to show them that God loves them."
Samaritan's Purse disaster experts were shown the burn area on Wednesday and met with emergency management officials yesterday to discuss when volunteers will be allowed into the neighborhoods to help fire victims.
At midweek, some homeowners were just beginning to return to their neighborhoods. The organization's teams will sift through the ashes and debris to recover sentimental items belonging to the fire victims. Last year, Samaritan's Purse disaster relief teams helped homeowners in Colorado and New Mexico after wildfires destroyed hundreds of homes in those two states.
"Some homeowners have been allowed back in and are starting to work so we believe it will be Friday or Saturday when it opens to volunteers," said Todd Taylor, program manager for the response. "We are looking forward to seeing how the Lord is going to move here."
The teams will be working alongside crisis-trained chaplains from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team, who will minister to the victims.
The Samaritan's Purse Disaster Relief Unit is based at Mountain Spring Church (7345 Adventure Way, Colorado Springs), which is located two miles from the burned communities. The tractor-trailer serves as a command center for the Samaritan's Purse response and is fully stocked with equipment that volunteers will use to help homeowners, officials said.
Homeowners needing help can visit the Disaster Relief Unit or call (719) 623-2750. To volunteer with Samaritan's Purse, go to spvolunteernetwork.org. Donations to help victims can be made at samaritanspurse.org.
Samaritan's Purse is an international Christian relief and evangelism organization that has helped more than 27,000 families in 31 U.S. states following fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and ice storms.