Many of the roughly 1,000 people evacuated Tuesday by the massive 117 Fire burning on the eastern plains of El Paso County were able to get a look at the damage Wednesday. The evacuations have not yet been lifted, but Sheriff Bill Elder said there are just too many access points for his properly control the flow of people coming and going.
At the Hanover Community Church, pastor’s wife Cora Simpich passed out cold bottles of water and snacks to firefighters and deputies patrolling the area.
"What we’ve been given, we’re just trying to share and people are welcome to bring stuff here," Simpich said.
The house of worship was right in the path of the flames Tuesday afternoon. Simpich said volunteers worked alongside the firefighters to try and save the buildings.
"They called it the parting of the Black Sea," she joked. "It spread around the church and 10 people were here watering everything, trying to get the trees to keep them from burning."
The edges of the fire pushed farther north and south of Hanover Tuesday night. That made the burned area safer for utility crews from Mountain State Electric to begin work replacing damaged power poles. Hanover residents depend on well water, and the wells use electric pumps.
Brian Woollard lives a short distance from the church. He credits good fire mitigation around his property for saving his house and his animals. The flames did destroy a few buildings on land near his mother’s home.
"We lost a barn with our heavy equipment are tractors rototiller is that sort of stuff and my workshop with all of my tools," Woollard said. "My mother’s house was saved, the old original homestead was saved and that was the main thing. The rest can all be replaced.
At least 23 homes have been destroyed by the wildfire. An unknown number of animals died. Simpich said one of the destroyed homes belonged to a friend who runs the Community Food Pantry.
"She just works to pieces to feed hungry people in the area, and her home is completely gone."
The donations and distribution site has since moved next door to the Hanover School. Simpich said the firefighters would love a good casserole, but she is also asking people who wish to donate clothing to take it instead to the God’s Pantry charity in Fountain.
The Red Cross emergency shelter at the Fountain Valley Baptist Church remains open. Volunteers from the agency are taking damage assessments from the homes and building that were lost to help with recovery plans.