Guest Commentary: County responding to High Park Fire

The High Park and Woodland Heights fires were unprecedented natural disasters in the history of Larimer County. In this “recovery” phase the concerns of fire survivors are broad.

In response, the commissioners relaxed provisions of our land use code; our land fill secured special authorization to accept and dispose of fire debris; we approved fee reductions and changes for building permits; we created web pages for information; we’re holding citizen meetings and communicating with survivors; we’re partnering on flooding issues and land restoration; we assisted with sand bag needs; we’re assessing our road and culvert needs in fire areas; we’re meeting with residents on private road issues; we set up and staffed a three-week disaster recovery center; we have provided human service, public and environmental health assistance; our GIS and IT departments continue to update; we’re working with partners on getting Dumpsters to residents for continued clean-up; we have a seat at the table on the Community long-term recovery committee assessing unmet needs; we have a long-term recovery director, Gary Darling; we’re reviewing our budget for opportunities to assist; and, we’ll continue to provide services as needs arise.

One example of the meetings with survivors we’re holding is on insurance. More than 100 survivors of the High Park fire met Aug. 2 with Larimer County and United Policyholders to talk about insurance. Survivors are now navigating the maze of insurance coverage and choosing whether to rebuild or not. We hired United Policyholders, a national non-profit consumer organization assisting disaster survivors, to conduct the “Insurance: Roadmap to Recovery Process” workshop. More information is available at larimer.org/highparkfire/.

Long-term recovery will take several years so we are in the process of hiring an even longer-term manager to oversee recovery past the next few months. Larimer County is and will be here for the citizens. We realize the grieving and recovery process can be frustrating. We ask that you be our partners, stay in touch, give us feedback, let us know what’s working, what’s not and what the needs are. We’ll continue to provide the best services we can while remaining good stewards of public resources for all of Larimer County.

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