Colorado Fires: How to Help Those Affected

The fires in the Boulder County, Colo. area on December 30 were swift and merciless:100-mph winds drove the flames’ rapid spread over drought-parched grasses and land. With little warning and many people at their workplaces, thousands had to flee their homes, leaving behind everything including valuables, family keepsakes, clean socks, and in many heartbreaking cases, pets. The fires have now subsided under a blanket of heavy snow and very low temperatures. The devastation for an estimated 1,000 households is immense. The current Omicron variant infection wave makes finding temporary housing with friends or family even harder.

JEWISHcolorado (the local Jewish Federation) has set up a dedicated emergency fund. Funds collected will be disbursed to local agencies such as Jewish Family Service, the Boulder JCC, and multiple congregations. These agencies will also disseminate funds to their clients and members and use funds to provide extra services. They have already ordered thousands of dollars of gift cards to hand out to people in need.

Representatives of Colorado’s Jewish communal organizations — including Boulder-area clergy, the JFS executive, the CEO of JEWISHcolorado, and the executive of the Boulder JCC — swiftly came together to assess and organize relief efforts to help both Jewish families and the broader community. At least 15-20 Jewish households lost their homes and their belongings in their entirety, but the full picture of the damage is still emerging. One synagogue has at least 70 families whose homes were in the evacuation zone. So far, there are no known casualties from the Jewish community.

While the ongoing needs of the community are still unknown, our Jewish communal organizations are working together to provide shelter, access to childcare, emergency funds for necessities, and comfort. In the months to come, our community will collaborate to extend to those affected by the fires a combination of emotional support, mental health services, and assistance navigating insurance and legal claims.

Thank you in advance to the JFN network for helping Colorado. Your care and generosity in these trying times bolster our Colorado Jewish community.

Cintra Pollack is a JFN board member and the Colorado trustee of Jewish Federations of North America.