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Cameron Peak, East Troublesome fires evacuees face hard decisions

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By the time Becky Jensen returned to her home in Poudre Canyon in late October, she hadn’t slept in her bed for 12 weeks.

Back in August, Jensen returned from celebrating her 50th birthday with a two-week hike in the San Juan Mountains as the Cameron Peak Fire ran east down Colorado Highway 14, forcing widespread evacuations that included her cabin a mile west of Rustic.

For the next 2½ months, Jensen camped out in her mother’s basement in Fort Collins with two cats and a dog, even as mandatory evacuations turned to voluntary. 

“I have asthma and pets. It was smart to gather everything together and head to Fort Collins and stay with my mom,” Jensen said as she prepared to return home after evacuations were lifted for the Colorado 14 corridor.

It’s been a long slog, but Jensen considers herself lucky. Her house is still standing and she was able to take refuge with family. Not everyone had that option.

Unlike the 2012 High Park Fire, when the American Red Cross opened a large evacuation center at The Ranch in Loveland, COVID-19 concerns prompted the agency to pay for hotel rooms for evacuees unable to find shelter with family or friends. 

Stories: Newlyweds look for light in the darkness after fire destroys their home

The Red Cross reported to Larimer County leaders that it has paid for more than 27,000 hotel nights. A family or single person staying in a hotel room for one night counts as one hotel night.

At the peak of Cameron Peak Fire evacuations, the Red Cross housed 1,300 evacuees in 570 rooms spread across 16 hotels and a KOA campground.

That number soared Oct. 22 when Estes Park residents fled the approaching East Troublesome Fire. Through Tuesday, 2,273 evacuees were housed in 1,043 rooms across more than 35 area hotels and two KOAs.

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Hilary and Josh Embrey’s home in Buckskin Heights in Masonville, Colorado was destroyed in the Cameron Peak Fire.

Fort Collins Coloradoan

While the loss of homes is still being assessed, Larimer County Sheriff’s Office has reported more than 442 structures have been destroyed within the county.

Of those damaged or destroyed, 209 are homes —  26 are primary residences. An additional 208 are outbuildings and 17 were designated as businesses that were part of the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes.

Those who lost their homes will be forced to find more permanent housing over the coming days and weeks while they decide what comes next.

Their decisions — depending on the final structure loss from the fires — could both tighten an already stressed housing market and help a hotel industry decimated by COVID-19.

Want to help: Here’s how to help those impacted by the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires

COVID-19 clears hotel space for fire evacuees

In normal years, hotels in Fort Collins and Loveland would have been hard pressed to accommodate so many evacuees as

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N.J. plumber hits $1.3M jackpot at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City

A New Jersey plumber and HVAC contractor hit a $1.3 million jackpot last weekend at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.

“James,” who asked that his last name not be used, hit the Royal Flush Mega Jackpot on Ultimate Texas Hold ’em with a $5 progressive bet, the casino announced on Tuesday.

“It is surreal to have hit a $1.3 million jackpot, especially because playing cards is a little different than laying pipe,” the instant millionaire said after his big win Sunday night.

James said he plans to take put some money away for his kids and take his wife on a deserved vacation.

In addition to the $1.3 million prize, a Mays Landing resident on Monday won $90,000 playing Blazing 7s on Monday. The winnings this week also extend to a $168,657 Dollar Storm and $80,000 Double Gold slot machine jackpot, both of which were hit Sunday, according to the casino.

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Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at tattrino@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas is Closed

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Coronavirus Will Hit Small Towns Hard As People Leave Cities


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Idaho Highway 75 outside of Sun Valley, Idaho.

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.


“Wealth is the vector.” That’s what sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom tweeted last week, in reference to the spread of COVID-19 across both the globe and the United States. Wealth is not the cause of every concentrated outbreak dotting the United States. But it’s the common denominator of so much of its spread outside of major urban areas. It’s the reason why so many of the coronavirus hot spots in the Mountain West — Sun Valley, Idaho; Gunnison County, Colorado; Summit County, Utah; Gallatin County, Montana — overlap with winter playgrounds for the wealthy. The virus travels via people, and the people who travel the most, both domestically and internationally, are rich people.

A party in the tony bedroom community of Westport, Connecticut, all the way back on March 5, became what one epidemiologist referred to as a “super-spreading event,” with infected attendees dispersing throughout Connecticut and New England, and one party-goer falling ill on a plane ride back to South Africa. In Idaho’s Blaine County, home to Sun Valley, more than half of the residential properties are second homes or rental properties, and more than 30,000 people fly into the regional airport during ski season alone. As of March 31, 187 people in the county of 22,000 have tested positive, including local emergency room physician Brent Russell. Two people have died. The town’s small hospital has two ICU beds and a single ventilator.

“People come here from all over the world,” Russell told the Idaho Statesman. “Especially this time of year. When I’m in the ER, I get people from New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Seattle. Every week there’s people from those places. Most likely someone from an urban area or multiple people from urban areas came here and they just set it off.”

All over the United States, people are fleeing urban areas with high infection rates for the perceived safety and natural beauty of rural areas. Some of them own second homes in those areas; others are paying upwards of $10,000 a month, depending on the area, for temporary housing. The common denominator among those populations is, again, wealth — either their own or their families’. They can flee the city because their jobs can be done remotely, or they don’t work at all. They either had a vacation house already, or they can afford to fork over what amounts to a second rent, or second mortgage.

Not everyone leaving a big city because of the pandemic is heading for a vacation home; many people with mobile jobs are relocating to stay with family in suburban and rural hometowns. And many of the rural places that will eventually be hardest hit by the coronavirus are not upscale ski and beach towns, but small and

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Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando

Hard Rock Hotel® at Universal Orlando Operations Update

We know Coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted many parts of your life – including your travel and vacation plans and we will be eager to welcome you back to our theme parks and destinations when the time comes. For now, we must make the health and safety of our guests and team members our top priority and we will continue to take guidance from health agencies and government officials.

This means we are extending the closure of Universal Orlando Resort through April 19. This includes our theme parks and Universal CityWalk. The Universal Orlando Resort hotels have also temporarily suspended operations.

Guests may call this number: (877) 801-9720 for assistance with rescheduling or refunding their current vacation plans. 

We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed. You can continue to check here for updates.

Please stay safe and take care of yourself and your family.

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KICK OFF THE FUN AT HARD ROCK HOTEL® AT UNIVERSAL ORLANDO

Amplify your Florida vacation when you visit Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando, a show-stopping hotel and resort in the heart of all the thrills and excitement. Hard Rock Hotel is equal parts family-friendly fun and rock god heaven, with a huge variety of amenities for kids and adults alike. From the sweeping California mission-style facades to the palm-lined swimming oasis where you’re immersed in both sound and water, Hard Rock Hotel Orlando is simply the coolest hotel on planet earth.

Rock and Relaxation at Universal Orlando

Hard Rock Hotel® is in the heart of the area’s thrilling theme parks and hottest nightlife. Plus, our hotel is equipped with everything you need to dine, play, and relax, whether you’re crafting the family vacation of a lifetime or hitting the road for business. Choose from a huge selection of nicely appointed modern hotel rooms and suites and indulge in our rock star amenities.

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