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Idaho State University creates ISU Charlotte Fire Task Force to assist those affected by Charlotte Fire

July 3, 2012
ISU Marketing and Communications

Idaho State University President Arthur C. Vailas has announced ISU has formed the ISU Charlotte Fire Task Force to continue offering support to members of the ISU community and greater Pocatello community affected by the Charlotte 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 will be helping those of the ISU community –– faculty, staff, students, emeritus faculty and retirees – who have been affected.

"A continuing priority is to members of the ISU family, making sure we do a thorough and efficient job of taking care of them," Vailas said. "The University needs to first accurately assess their needs, and then take steps to care for them."

According to a preliminary report being prepared by the ISU Office of Human Resources, of the 66 homes that reported burned, more than 20 belonged to members of the extended ISU community. Many others were affected less severely."We're in the process of confirming who was affected and how severely they were affected," said James Fletcher, ISU Vice President of Finance. "We appreciate the response we've had from people updating us on who all was affected. Now we need to better determine how we can best help them."

A website, phone line and email address are available to ISU faculty, staff, students and retirees to find out what services are available and to report what needs there are to be addressed. The designated phone number is (208) 282-4400; the website is www.isu.edu/firesupport; and the email address is firesupport@isu.edu.

As community members cope with the loss and trauma in response to the Charlotte fire, the ISU Department of Counseling and the ISU Counseling and Testing Center will offer free counseling. The ISU Department of Counseling’s Pocatello Counseling Center is located on the seventh floor of Garrison Hall and its phone number is 240-1609.  The ISU Counseling and Testing Center is located in Room 351 of Graveley Hall and its phone number is 282-2130.

The task force is discussing how to offer other means of emotional support for fire victims and counseling may become available from other campus entities.

It is also collecting information on short-term housing options available at the University and offering assistance in finding long-term, temporary housing.

The task force is also forming a pool of University volunteers to assist evacuees and fire victims in a wide assortment of projects. ISU will continue to work 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. Links and information on these agencies will be available on the website.

"Our thoughts and prayers are still with those who have lost their homes," Vailas said. "Although the Charlotte fire was officially declared contained yesterday (July 2) the recovery work is just starting. The entire community has united to assist those affected, and we're happy to be part of that team."

ISU has already helped out in various ways. By 5 p.m. Thursday, June 28, 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."

Holt Arena's Bennion Room, with its TV, functioned as a place evacuees could keep up on the latest news. Casper's office was turned into a space for evacuees to receive emergency counseling. Showers were available, janitorial services were provided and toiletry kits were distributed. These services were used by people who spent the night in the shelter, parked their recreational vehicles in the Holt Arena parking lot, or stopped by for various lengths of time.

"The main thing I'd like to stress is that we all worked together as a team," said Loretta Taylor, ISU custodial services manager, who also became a Red Cross volunteer last weekend. "ISU worked with the Red Cross, who worked with the city and the county. All the different departments and agencies came together and unified for a common purpose. It was awe-inspiring and I can’t say enough. I have a great newfound respect for this community and for what it can do."

ISU's contribution to that greater community will continue.




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