SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – Colorado’s largest wildfire in history, the Cameron Peak fire has been burning for over 70 days. It’s not too far north of the Good Samaritan Society’s Estes Village. A mere two weeks ago, on October 14th, another wildfire, the East Troublesome fire, started to their west and was making its way closer. As they were starting to get closed in, they knew they had to get out.
With two major fires near the Good Samaritan Society’s Estes Village in Colorado, it’s fair to say that Administrator Julie Lee was feeling the heat.
“When we hear that there’s a spot fire, and, all of the sudden, your phone starts giving you these alerts that you have to get out immediately, ‘please vacate,’ you don’t really know where the fire’s at,” Lee said.
The East Troublesome fire was growing about 6,000 acres an hour and, due to wind, was headed toward the village. This called for a mandatory evacuation.
“Probably, the worst part, I think, for all of us, was that about the time the evacuation started, this heavy, dark, black smoke came into the valley, and it was like the middle of the night… at 1:30 in the afternoon. I mean, it was so black you couldn’t see across the parking lot,” Lee said.
As calls from family members poured in, Lee made one herself to the national campus in Sioux Falls. Vice President of Operations Nate Schema says they provided help by coordinating transportation, food, and updating families on the status of their loved ones.
“You hear the fear in their voice just not knowing what this is going to mean. Knowing that, in some cases people have, they have those really precious mementos, pictures and a lifetime of memories, and they’re just not sure what that’s going to look like or if they’re going to have a house to go back to,” Schema said.
Three hours later, they had all 109 residents evacuated. Some members were relocated to across 3 different facilities while others are staying with family. Lee is currently working out of the Water Valley Facility in Windsor.
“The teams here are just amazing; I’m sitting here looking at my thank-you-notes. I have to write so many thank-you-notes because of all the outpouring love and support that the Good Samaritan Society shows,” Lee said.
Proving that the only thing that could spread faster than these wildfires was the call for help.
Lee says that they’re looking to have displaced residents moved back into Estes Village sometime later this week. Officials say the recent snowfall on Sunday has helped to stall the fires.