Structure housing supplies, equipment burned in January

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SANOSTEE — The sounds of a circular saw and hammers carried as construction workers continued work on a new building near the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter house here today.

After a January fire burned down the building that housed equipment and supplies used by the chapter's authorized local emergency response team, chapter officials worked with the Navajo Nation Risk Management Program to build a new structure.

The seven-member team is comprised of residents who volunteer to assist in emergency situations or natural disasters. Members also provide outreach to other chapters and public education, such as first aid, CPR and fire extinguisher training.

Gerald Henderson is team leader of ALERT and vice president for the chapter.

"I'm happy that our building is getting rebuilt. …We want to be here for our community and neighboring chapters that are needing assistance," he said while standing near the construction site.

Construction on the new building started this month. When completed, the building will house a conference room, kitchen, office, showers and restrooms.

When the fire was reported to law enforcement at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Jan. 30, Henderson heard the call on his police scanner. He said when he arrived at the scene, the building was engulfed by flames.

Navajo police in Shiprock ruled the cause as arson, Henderson added.

Construction for the new building is being paid by insurance, and the chapter filed a claim with the tribe's Risk Management Program.

"It is a loss the chapter sustained," said Shawnevan Dale, program supervisor for the Risk Management Program.

Henderson said program officials understood the importance of replacing the building, and throughout the process, he has assured community members the team would continue to operate.

The old building was used to store the team's supplies, equipment, first-aid kits, canned food, bedding, and traffic cones and signage. Those items were lost in the fire, and insurance will not replace them, Henderson said, adding the team is looking to rebuild its inventory of supplies through donations.

For more information about donations or to donate, contact Henderson at the Tsé Alnaozt'i'í Chapter house at 505-723-2702.

The chapter was the first to establish its ALERT in the Northern Agency, Henderson said.

Since the team started in 2002, it has worked with the American Red Cross, the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management and the Navajo Nation Department of Emergency Management to deliver services and respond to situations.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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