On Dec. 30, 2021, wildfires in Boulder County, Colorado, fueled by 100+ mph winds, destroyed hundreds and hundreds of homes and businesses. By mid-day, Colorado's governor had issued a state of emergency – and the forced evacuations of tens of thousands of people (and patients) out of the cities of Superior and Layfette, Colorado.
That afternoon, approximately 4:30 p.m., Life Care Center of Greeley received a call from our regional vice president (Kailey McNerney). The call placed our van drivers, and vans, on stand-by, in the event any patients in the affected burn area(s) (approximately 35-40 miles south of Greeley) needed transportation.
The original mission suggested that Greeley’s drivers be ready to assist with transporting patients from the evacuation areas to Life Care Center of Longmont. Rey Olivo (transportation) and Gonzo Casas (maintenance assistant) fueled and readied the facility vans before going home… and then, they waited.
TV news stations up and down the Front Range (and nationally) televised, live, as homes and businesses disappeared in a tsunami of flames. Hurricane-force winds drove flames 100 feet in the air while residents of entire neighborhoods scrambled to escape. It was an unstoppable mess.
At approximately 6:30 p.m., the order came: It was GO time. Rey and Gonzo carpooled back to the facility together. Gonzo called Sean Dailey (director of maintenance) and told Sean of the order to head out to The Peaks assisted living facility in Layfette and assist in the evacuation of patients. Rey in his van, and Gonzo in his bus, headed south, directly into the area that they were watching on TV just moments prior.
The two arrived at The Peaks, in and amongst the chaos of a mass evacuation, and witnessed the frightened looks on the patients being evacuated. Ash, soot and smoke filled the area. Breathing was tough. The drivers learned that The Peaks’ evacuation was nearly complete but that The Peaks’ sister facility, Generations, an attached memory care facility, needed help. The two drivers headed toward Generations.
Sean called Gonzo to inquire about his and Rey's whereabouts. As Gonzo was informing Sean of the change of locations, Sean interrupted and said, “I see you now, I'll be right there.”
Sean had left home and driven his personal vehicle to Layfette to join Rey and Gonzo and help any way he could. The three proceeded to board eight memory care residents onto the Life Care Center of Greeley buses. The residents' applicable durable medical equipment and medications were sorted out and stowed. The three drivers, and their passengers, then carefully navigated their way out of the confusion and disorientation of snarled traffic in Layfette and safely headed northbound to the designated receiving facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Forty-five minutes later, the eight residents were warm, safe and dry in their new temporary home. The three drivers shared a moment in the parking lot, commending one another, high-fiving and congratulating each other for what they had just pulled off: Mission accomplished!
Today, the three men are humble, almost grateful to have been placed in a position to help. “We were able to help, they shared. “Why wouldn't we?”
Life Care Center of Greeley could not be prouder of Rey, Gonzo and Sean. Well done, good and faithful servants!