EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - In a sign of how close-knit communities hang together in disasters, a Falcon fire chief gave out his cellphone number at a Saturday news conference to anyone in the town who'd lost their home in the Black Forest Fire.
"If you know someone or you are someone that has lost a home in Falcon, please give me a call," Falcon Fire Division Chief Glenn Levy said during the news conference that was picked up by national news networks.
"I'm almost afraid to do this, but it's more important that you have it, my cellphone number is…" Levy said, reading out his number. "I carry it 24/7. Call me."
About 20 percent of the Black Forest fire burned in Falcon, a town of 10,000 people. Overall, the 15,500-acre fire has destroyed 480 homes in El Paso County and more than 20,000 people remained evacuated Saturday.
But progress has been made on the wildfire in recent days as fire crews carved out 45 percent containment by early Saturday.
Yet, Levy said, "Our work is not done. Your fighters are rolling up their sleeves and serving harder now than they did during the fire. Over the past few days we have been serving with our hands, and now we're serving with our hearts and with our heads."
The chief stressed that he understood that displaced residents are anxious to learn if their home is safe, damaged or destroyed.
"We will see that you get into your home as soon as possible, as soon as it's safe. You deserve that. That is our sacred trust. And we are going to make it happen," Levy said.
"I'm also going to be assigning a firefighter to every Falcon citizen who lost a home and we will keep that firefighter with you as long as you want him or her to help you with all the logistics and the recovery," Levy said "We will assign them to you for as along as you need them to help you with things that are of value to you, both financial and emotional."
"We've been leaving letters, from me personally and from our firefighters, at every home that has either been damaged (or) totally destroyed," the chief said. "We want to answer your questions. We want to help in every way that we can, knowing that for you this is a scary and almost surreal time."
The chief said he'd also be holding community meetings where fire officials and residents can share information, stories about the fire "and share some tears. Yes, I have shared many tears of my own over the last few days," he said.
"Together, we will get through this," Levy said.
Levy, who along with his firefighters has seen battling the fire for days with little sleep, thanked community members for their generous support.
"First, on the behalf of your firefighters, I want to personally thank everyone who has donated food, water, Gatorade and all the supplies to the men and women of Falcon (fire department)," he said. "What you have done for us is to allow (the firefighters) to serve you best."
The chief also drew some laughs with some personal hygiene jokes.
"For those who are wondering, yes, I have been in the same clothes for four days. And, yes, brushing your teeth is indeed optional," Levy said.
"It's amazing what a couple hours of sleep, a completely clean uniform, blue skies with no smoke and the support of an amazing fire department and what a community has done for me. I am energized," he added.
He praised the heroics of Falcon firefighters as they fought the firestorm that has killed at least two people since it erupted Tuesday.
"It's unfathomable what your fighters saw. You can be as proud of your firefighters as I am," Levy said.