Daily Camera

Ella Cobb

Residents who lost their homes in the Marshall Fire can’t be guaranteed that FEMA will fill the gap between what insurance covers and the cost of rebuilding. They do have, however, access to federal loans to help fill those gaps.

“FEMA’s assistance is capped at a certain amount, so if people are insured, it’s not always guaranteed that FEMA will help meet those unmet needs,” FEMA representative Adam Heyns told residents who joined federal, state and local representatives during a virtual town hall meeting on Sunday.

Heyns said Small Business Administration low interest disaster loans can be accessed.

Additionally, state Rep. Tracey Bernett encouraged residents to accept the “outpouring of help” that’s being offered in the wake of the disaster.

“So many people here in Boulder County, across the state, and from around the country have stepped up; and are helping in many ways, with their time and talent and their treasure,” said Bernett, who represents District 12, which includes Louisville and Lafayette. “Let go of your hesitations, and accept the help that is being offered right now. Think of it not as donations or charity, but as one big hug coming from people all over the world.”

Federal assistance was only one of the concerns addressed on Sunday. Prior to the town hall, Louisville and Superior residents were able to submit questions to be answered during the meeting pertaining to the next steps in the rebuilding process, as both towns slowly inch back toward rebuilding.

The town hall panel included several Colorado legislators, as well as representatives from organizations including FEMA, the Colorado Division of Insurance, Boulder County Disaster Recovery, Homeland Security, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the Small Business Administration, and United Policyholders, a nonprofit aimed which provides information for insurance holders.

Superior Mayor Clint Folsom and Louisville Mayor Ashley Stolzmann were also in attendance.

Congressman Joe Neguse stated his satisfaction with the emergency response to the Marshall Fire, and reminded those impacted by the fire to visit the Disaster Assistance Center at 1755 South Public Road in Lafayette, which will be open and operational for another week or so, according to Garry Sanfaçon, disaster recovery manager for Boulder County.

The panel fielded several questions from the public regarding issues with insurance, unemployment, debris removal, as well as future plans for the recovery and rebuilding process.

Kevin Klein, director of the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, broke down the primary recovery objectives following the fire, which include providing safe housing and shelter for those who are still displaced, safely removing debris from homes and property, as well as coordinating a local, state, federal and voluntary recovery program.

Klein also addressed emergency alerts, reminding Boulder County residents to make sure that they are signed up for the emergency alert system in order to be provided with emergency warnings and evacuation orders.

The panel identified debris as a major concern for the recovery effort, as many destroyed and damaged properties contain toxic or otherwise harmful particulates that would be unsafe for members of the public to dispose of on their own.

Any debris removal plan must be approved by the county, so Sanfaçon reminded residents to be patient with the debris removal process. “Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. It is going to take time for life to return back to normal,” said Sanfaçon.

For those who are qualified, the Colorado Department of Labor and Unemployment is offering disaster unemployment insurance. Individuals who might have lost their jobs or sources of income due to the fire are encouraged to apply for disaster unemployment through the CDLE website.

Louisville and Superior students who might have lost their school supplies in the fire are eligible for free items such as backpacks and laptops, as well as transportation, BVSD Superintendent Rob Anderson said during the meeting. Parents of displaced students may register their child as displaced at bvsd.org.

To watch the virtual town hall in full, visit facebook.com/stevefenberg for a link to the entire zoom meeting. For those with questions or seeking resources about the Marshall Fire, visit bouldercounty.org/disasters/wildfires/marshall.