We’re not yet a week into the wildfire recovery process. But Boulder County officials offered a stark reminder at the Marshall Fire press conference yesterday: Recovery is years away. One big question mark already? Drinking water.

John Herrick reports today on the state’s work to determine whether the fire may have caused long-term contamination to the water supply — as wildfires have done in other places. 

Also in this newsletter are stories generated right from you. You asked us: When is my Internet coming back? We’re finding out. You emailed us: No one seems to be accepting clothing and in-kind donations anymore. Where can we give? We got on that, too. This is service journalism, and it’s part of our mission at the Boulder Reporting Lab.

So please, keep your questions coming and let us know what you need. Simply hit reply to this email. ☝️

Thanks for reading, and for your support.

– Stacy, publisher

The Boulder Star shines on Flagstaff Mountain as a cotton candy-colored sunset flutters above on Jan. 2. For a little hope, the star, which usually dims out for the year in early January, will remain shining over Boulder County in response to the Marshall Fire. Credit Anthony Albidrez

Top Stories

State health department is assessing Marshall Fire’s damage to drinking water system

Local officials are working to restore water services to residents displaced by the Marshall Fire as soon as possible. But recent research indicates cancer-causing chemicals, such as benzene, can linger in drinking water systems for months after the smoke clears. The state expects to have preliminary water sample results this week. Read the full story

Boulder County residents are still without Internet nearly a week after the fire

The Boulder Reporting Lab is following progress on the status of Internet outages in the county. This story is ongoing and will be updated as new information is received. Please email us if you are still experiencing an Internet outage, and be sure to include your neighborhood information and Internet provider. Read the full story

Quickly

⏱️ Marshall Fire remains 6,026 acres. 100% of the perimeter is contained.
⏱️ It’s freezing. Residents cleared to return home “should take the necessary steps to prevent pipes from freezing.” (Other re-entry reminders here.)
⏱️ Xcel Energy has restored power to “most” customers in evacuated areas: About 10,000 out of the 13,000 customers who lost power have it back.
⏱️ Natural gas restoration for appliances neared the halfway mark Monday, with nearly 6,000 pilot lights completed.
⏱️ A boil water notice remains in effect for residents of Louisville and Superior.
⏱️ Superior officials still estimate that potable water will return Friday, Jan. 7. Louisville officials estimate Sunday, Jan. 9, for its residents.
⏱️ Reminder: The Disaster Assistance Center (DAC) is open at 1755 South Public Rd. in Lafayette. It’s offering insurance consultations, FEMA applications and other financial aid assistance, mental health support, food and more. Seven days a week, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
⏱️ Note: The DAC is slated to be open for about two weeks, officials said.
⏱️ As of yesterday afternoon, 370 people had registered online for FEMA assistance. Another 250 had registered in-person at the DAC. To speed up the process, bring in your insurance determination letter. (“FEMA cannot provide assistance for losses that are covered by insurance.”)
⏱️ The Boulder County Community Foundation has raised $12 million through its Wildfire Fund, from about 43,000 donors.
⏱️ It’s immediately dispersing $5 million in direct financial assistance “to those whose homes have been destroyed or damaged and are in financial need.” Another $500,000 will go to evacuees in need. DAC is disbursing the funds.
⏱️ All BVSD schools are opening today, as planned.
⏱️ The district is urging any families who have been affected by the fire to fill out this form so “our community partners can provide support and resources for those who need it.”
⏱️ Trails & trailheads in the Marshall Fire area remain closed. View closures here. “OSMP is now conducting safety, infrastructure & resource damage assessments in the area,” the agency wrote in a tweet.
⏱️ The “Marshall Housing Needs and Availability” public Facebook group now has more than 2,400 members. Join here if you’re looking for housing, or have housing to offer those displaced by the fire.
⏱️ Rep. Judy Amabile announced on Monday she is running for re-election in House District 49. The new district includes the western part of Boulder County, Gilpin County, Clear Creek County and parts of Larimer County.
⏱️ Boulder is hiring for its new director of planning. (Apply here.) Jacob Lindsey left the position in December after one year.

Covid-19 in Boulder County: Jan. 5, 2022

  • 336 daily new cases (7-day avg.) 🔺Up 141% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 46 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) 🔺Up from avg. of 39 since July 2020.
  • 62% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 72% since July 2020.
  • Data: Here’s how and where we’re tracking all of the above.

Latest Covid news

  • Cases are surging, hospitalizations aren’t (yet). According to our analysis of Boulder County Covid data, cases have increased dramatically. The 141% rise above likely doesn’t capture the true case count, given the prevalence of at-home testing and shutdown of testing sites in the wake of the fire. For now, hospitalizations have decreased compared to recent weeks.
  • New visitation policy. Boulder Community Health has updated its visitation policy. Changes: Hospitalized patients may have no more than one adult visitor per day (with the exception of patients with Covid). Visitors may not come and go, and must stay in the patient’s room.
  • Meals on Wheels Boulder. “Are you or a loved one needing support during this Covid wave? We can help by providing hot, nutritious meals delivered to your home, regardless of age or income.”

BRL Picks

🌻 FarmFest. Sunflower Farm in Longmont is offering evacuees of the Marshall Fire and first responders “a little breather from their stress and efforts in starting to rebuild.” Come to the farm for some nature and animal time, free of charge. Saturday, Jan. 8, from 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Free coffee and hot chocolate provided by Palo Coffee Bar. Reservations required.
🚲 Free bikes. Community Cycles is offering bikes for transportation to anyone who suffered losses in the Marshall Fire. “We realize there may be some people who lost the bicycles or cars that they depend on for everyday transportation,” said Sue Prant, Community Cycles executive director. “To the best of our ability, we’d like to make some bikes available to meet basic transportation needs.” The bicycles are for “everyday” transportation. The organization won’t be able to replace high-end mountain, road or gravel bikes.
🍜 85 restaurants (and counting!) offering free meals. A growing number of restaurants in the Boulder and Denver areas are providing free food for displaced residents. Find the full list, now at 85, here. The effort is being run by Restaurants Revive, in partnership World Central Kitchen and Conscious Alliance along with support from the Northwest Chamber Alliance and Downtown Boulder Partnership.
🙋Ways to help today. Be sure to check out our listing of ways you can donate and volunteer to support the fire relief effort today. We’re updating it everyday, so you can stay up to date on opportunities to lend a hand.

What We’re Reading

  • Assess your own tree damage. The City of Boulder said on Tuesday that it is assessing damage throughout the city to public trees. And it’s encouraging residents to do the same for trees on private property. “The impacts of this storm are not to the extent to warrant a city-funded debris clean-up and the city will not pick up downed branches. If there are broken branches on your property, please take them to Western Disposal, 5880 Butte Mill Rd. Community members may also place branches out for curbside compost.” [City of Boulder]
  • Minimum wage bump. Amid the wildfire disaster, Colorado’s new minimum wage quietly rose to $12.56 per hour on New Year’s Day. That’s up from $12.32 per hour. The minimum wage is $9.54 for workers receiving tips totaling minimum wage. (For context: If you work 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, that’s an annual salary of about $26,000 a year.) [Colorado Department of Labor and Employment]

ICYMI

🖤 ‘What kind of life can I rebuild?’ The remaining people at the last shelter for fire victims are unsure what comes next. All but about two dozen residents displaced by the disaster have since left the Lafayette YMCA. Many who remain are waiting to return to their homes — or are unable to find anywhere else to go.
💰 UPDATED: The Marshall Fire has spurred an outpouring of giving. Here’s where you can donate and volunteer today. Organizations say they’re overwhelmed by the amount of physical donations. Use this guide to donate cash, food and your own time.

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Stacy Feldman

I'm the founder and publisher of the Boulder Reporting Lab. I previously co-founded and was executive editor of Inside Climate News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit newsroom covering the climate emergency. I was a 2020-21 Ted Scripps Fellow in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I developed the concept for BRL.