BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Sifting through the ashes of a home destroyed by the Marshall Fire can be a daunting and dangerous task, but two nonprofits are offering to help.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and Samaritan's Purse offer free sifting services to people who lost homes in the Dec. 30 fire.
“When I see people hurting, I want to help them," said Dennis Belz, state director for the Colorado branch of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
Belz said his team of volunteers has been working ever since the Marshall Fire swept across Boulder County and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
“We say we bring help, healing and hope," Belz said.
Volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief have provided hot meals to people at the Disaster Assistance Center (DAC) in Lafayette. On Wednesday, they started to help people sift and sort through what's left of their homes.
“It’s saint-like, in my opinion," Mirza Peljto said.
Peljto lost the Louisville home he shared with his wife, Anna, and their 7-year-old daughter. On Thursday morning, volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief helped Peljto sort through the rubble.
“Some of the most selfless, kindest people I’ve met," Peljto said.
Belz said volunteers are trained, credentialed and passed background checks. They suit up in personal protective equipment and spend hours scouring through ash and debris.
"People say there’s nothing in the ash, but we always find things in the ash," Belz said. “We were just up in Grand County this past year and we found over 12 wedding bands.”
People interested in free sifting services from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief or Samaritan's Purse can sign up at the DAC, which is open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Belz said more than 300 people had signed up as of late Monday morning.
"This is a ministry to us," Belz said. "It’s not a job. It’s a ministry to be able to help people.”
Boulder County Public Health strongly discouraged people from sifting through ash and debris on their own, regardless of PPE, because it poses a significant health risk.
A Jan. 5 post on the Boulder OEM website says, "Boulder County is working closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the impacted municipalities to coordinate debris removal from homes that have been destroyed or damaged by the Marshall or Middle Fork fires."
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