Adams State welcomed fire evacuees

(06-28-2013)

When Adams State University received a request to assist West Fork Fire evacuees, the campus reacted. Bernadine Hostetter, guest services, immediately went into action to serve the evacuees after receiving a request through the Adams State President's Office. James Trujillo, executive assistant to the president, fielded the phone call to help house evacuees who had no other place to go.

"My staff has been amazing," Hostetter said. "They have worked overtime, sometimes until two or three in the morning." The campus had rooms available after the last-minute cancellation of a sports camp and an off-campus group checking out early. "Across campus departments and individuals responded to make the stay as comfortable as possible for the evacuees," Hostetter added.

The Academic Instructional Technology Center provided the temporary residents with access to skype the daily fire meetings, Computing Services enabled WiFi for all the rooms, and the Rex Activity Center opened its facilities for the evacuees.

Teal Holman has worked at Fun Valley for the last three summers. A resident of Texas, Holman said: "Ms. Bernadine is one of the nicest people I met in Colorado so far. The students and resident assistants have all been great. We couldn't ask for more." He stayed with the owner of Fun Valley, along with six other employees, to help evacuate the approximately 200 campers.

Holman said it was a relief to know they had a place to go. "We have everything we need while we bunker down."

Fellow employees of Fun Valley, Bob and Marcelle Russell, Rosewell, New Mexico residents, left for Pagosa Springs on their day-off. When it was time to return, Wolf Creek Pass was closed. Taking the long-way around, over Cumbres Pass, they stopped on their way through Alamosa and heard Fun Valley had been evacuated. They drove west on 160 noticing the string of RVs heading east. Once arriving in South Fork, the state police stopped them from continuing any further. "The sheriff took us up in his car and gave us three minutes to get in and out."

That night they slept in their pick-up truck in the Walmart parking lot. The next morning they heard about Adams State's dormitories being available. "It is just amazing how everyone, not just the administration, has been so friendly and welcoming." Students asked if they needed anything and some of the custodial staff offered their homes. "The moral support was so appreciated."

Since then, the couple was allowed to retrieve their RV from Fun Valley. They continue to use Adams State for showers. "We are making the best of a bad situation. We are taking the opportunity to explore the San Luis Valley."

Hostetter said: "The community's out-reach has been amazing." Many campus and community individuals and local organizations and churches have donated food, meals, and supplies for the misplaced. "The community has been fantastic and the evacuees are a great group."

According to Hostetter, the evacuees are welcome to stay until July 9, after which all the rooms will be filled with previously-booked camps and conferences.