BOULDER, Colo. — Over the course of nearly two decades, John Miller has volunteered with the Red Cross on 36 disasters nationwide.
Miller is now a disaster assessment manager for the fires burning in Colorado and Wyoming. The 78-year-old is also helping the Red Cross with data management for the Louisiana hurricanes and is mentoring a new disaster assessment manager in Oregon.
Currently, he is also waiting to return to his Boulder home.
"I’m hoping by the weekend they’ll at least let us in temporarily to take care of our homes," Miller said.
On Saturday afternoon, as the Calwood Fire raced toward his neighborhood, Miller gathered his belongings and returned his wheels and brakes to his car.
"I had to get those back on before I could even think about leaving," he said.
Miller escaped with time to spare but thought it was unlikely his home would be there upon his return.
"I mean when I left, the fire was coming over the ridge into our neighborhood. I didn't think there was any chance we would survive," he told 9NEWS Wednesday while standing in front of a plume of smoke billowing from the still-burning Calwood Fire.
While his home is difficult to spot from outside the area still under an evacuation order, Miller knows it still stands. A last-minute shift in wind spared his neighborhood, but the community next door wasn't so lucky.
"There's not much you can do for them. With COVID you can't put your arms around them but they know we care," he said. "You're empathetic as you can be and just be sure they know they need to get in touch with their insurance company as soon as they can and be ready for a couple of years of tough sledding."
The wildfire that started Saturday is the largest recorded in Boulder County. It is 21% contained and has burned 9,978 acres. BOEM said on Sunday that the fire had damaged at least 26 houses and released a list of the structures.
This isn't the first time fires have forced the Red Cross volunteer from his home and he expects it won't be the last.
"Any of us that live in this wildland-urban interface, know that we’re always at threat of wildfire and it’s only going to get worse with climate change," he said.
For that reason, Miller said he will continue to volunteer with the Red Cross. The organization is housing, feeding and providing additional resources to the many evacuees of the fires burning in Colorado and Wyoming.
"We don’t get our money any other way and if people are willing to donate to the red cross, it may not help them but it can certainly help their neighbors," he said.
If you are an evacuee or someone who has been impacted by the wildfires and needs assistance, call 1-800-417-0495.
To sign up to volunteer, email Joshua.Stewart@redcross.org.
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