Volume 43 | Number 1 | Fall 2012

Charlotte Fire Affects ISU

Fall 2012 Issue

Within hours after the Charlotte Fire broke out on June 28 in Pocatello's Mink Creek area — and eventually burned 66 homes — Idaho State University was offering help. And the University continues to do so for fire victims belonging to the ISU and greater communities.

By 5 p.m. the day the fires erupted, the American Red Cross had begun setting up an emergency shelter for evacuees in ISU's Holt Arena. That shelter remained open until 4 p.m. Saturday, June 30, when it was moved to the Clarion Inn.

"ISU's response was absolutely phenomenal," said Sue Robinson, Chief Executive Officer, American Red Cross of Greater Idaho, who oversaw emergency operations for the fire. "All the way around, from public safety to facilities services, every department we interacted with was very helpful and supportive. The space was great, the staff was great, and overall we couldn't have been more pleased with the response. We look forward to continuing partnership with ISU."

The emergency shelter provided a variety of services to evacuees, from providing a place to sleep or to get a meal, to providing crisis counseling. ISU facilities, public safety, housing and event personnel, as well as student and staff volunteers, assisted around-the-clock, pitching in to help.

ISU Public Safety provided 24-hour security, and its personnel also helped set up cots, distribute food and offer any other assistance it could.

"A lot of my people came in from their vacations or outside of their normal shifts and helped out in any way they could," said Stephen Chatterton, director of ISU Public Safety. "A group of 13 or 14 students just spontaneously came up there and were a great help, too."

Holt Arena staff worked from beginning to end at the emergency shelter, too.

"We basically turned Holt Arena into a shelter area first thing on Thursday night," said George Casper, ISU events director. "We helped them set up cots, tables, chairs and cooler space. As the day went on we assisted them with anything they needed."

Idaho State University President Arthur C. Vailas formed the ISU Charlotte Fire Task Force to continue offering support to members of the ISU community and greater Pocatello community affected by the fire.

"I am proud of the way ISU stepped up to help the community initially deal with this catastrophe," Vailas said. "We will continue to support the greater Pocatello community in any way we can to help heal from these tragic fires."

A particular focus of the task force was helping those of the ISU community — faculty, staff, students, emeritus faculty and retirees — who have been affected.

According to a report prepared by the ISU Office of Human Resources, of the 66 homes that reported burned, about 20 belonged to members of the extended ISU community. Many others were affected less severely.

As community members coped with the loss and trauma in response to the Charlotte fire, the ISU Department of Counseling and the ISU Counseling and Testing Center offered free counseling.

The task force formed a pool of University volunteers to assist evacuees and fire victims in a wide assortment of projects. ISU worked with other public, volunteer and private entities such as the American Red Cross, United Way and city, state and county governments committed to helping the community recover from the fire.