TELLER COUNTY — The Teller County Sheriff’s Office held a community meeting on Saturday afternoon to update the public and evacuees on the High Park Fire.
The meeting happened at the Cripple Creek-Victor Junior High-School gymnasium, and more than 100 people were there.
Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell and the incident commander, Matt Norden, started off by giving an update on the fire. Then they answered questions that community members had. Many of the questions were about the emergency alert system, including how alerts were sent out, how to sign up, and concerns with the system.
Some of the concerns brought up were lack of service in the area and not getting alerts. Officials re-iterated the importance of signing up for alerts through the Peak Alert System. In the event of an evacuation, law enforcement or first responders will go to every door to make sure everyone gets out safely.
At least 120 homes remain under evacuation on Saturday afternoon, including Brian Wheatcraft’s home. He was at the meeting and got notified last night that he and his wife had to evacuate.
“We’ve seen fires off in the distance, but this obviously cuts much closer to home and is a very serious situation,” said Wheatcraft, who’s currently staying at a hotel in Cripple creek. “We gathered up a few things that we could, and left our home and spent the night in town, and we've had a lot of friends and family offered to help us. But right now and things are fine.”
Wheatcraft has lived in the area for 16 years, but no matter how long you’ve lived here or how prepared you are, the High Park fire is hitting too close to home for many.
“The fact that it's so close to town is kind of taken to next level for us as far as those of us who live in town,” said Annie Durham, a Cripple Creek resident.
Officials say Cripple Creek is not expected to evacuate, because of defensible space around the city. The larger concern is for people living in the outlying areas, but it’s still sounding the alarm.
“This is very concerning that it's so close to town. We just want to be as prepared as possible in the event that you know, whatever circumstances are necessary,” said Durham.
First responders and law enforcement are also preparing themselves by scouting neighborhoods and making sure they know where roads and where homes are in the event of an emergency. They said they’re doing this because a lot of areas are one way in and one way out.
For Wheatcraft, he’s just hoping he can go home soon.
“It’s just kind of exhausting. But other than that, I think I want to be a real optimist and believe everything's going to be okay,” said Wheatcraft.
The High Park Fire burning in teller county is now 10% contained. There are more than 200 emergency personnel working on the fire lines.
First responders are using two helicopters and one heavy tanker to fight the fire. No structures have been lost and no injuries have been reported.
A total of 580 houses and 75 businesses are in mandatory evacuation or on standby for pre-evacuation.
The fire is currently burning in an area less than two miles outside of the city of Cripple Creek. The cause of the fire is unknown.
An evacuation site is set up at Woodland Park High School, where shelter, food, water, and mental health resources are also being provided.
Animals are being evacuated to PBJ Ranch in Divide.