EL PASO COUNTY — With winds gusting around 45 miles per hour, grassy fuels and heat, all the ample conditions were in place for a fast-moving fire Monday.
And that's exactly what happened.
A fire that began near the intersection of State Highway 94 and North Blaney Road eventually burned 408 acres, destroyed at least two buildings and made for a hectic afternoon, including the rescue of a property owner.
The Ellicott Fire Protection District and Falcon Fire Department led the response, in conjunction with a handful of other agencies. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Behind roadblocks, all 83-year-old Vivian Frick could do was watch. Her family has owned the same property, near Curtis Road and Davis Road, since 1963.
"I just hope my home is not burnt," Frick said. "It means everything to me."
But she almost didn't make it out.
As the fire moved quickly to the northeast, firefighters were forced to change their tactics. Instead of engaging the flames directly, they went home to home in search of anyone hanging around, so they could be evacuated, according to Falcon Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Petersma.
"We had one victim that was rescued from her home who was doing fine, but she did have to be removed from the house by fire personnel," Petersma said.
That victim was Frick. They reached her just in time.
"I almost passed out because the smoke was so bad, and I'm on oxygen at night," Frick said.
A closer look at the damage revealed Frick's property took on some damage, like the loss of a large garage and barn, but firefighters managed to save their home.
Petersma credited the automatic and mutual aid agreements in place that bring help from neighboring agencies when there's a fire.
"Fortunately, a lot was saved because of their efforts and those relationships," Petersma said.
And those efforts were greatly appreciated by the impacted families, giving credit to the firefighters for their work to protect whatever they could.
Grass will grow back. Buildings will be rebuilt, but the loss of life cannot be replaced, something Frick said she was quite grateful for.
"Thanks a million. I don't know if I could even have gotten away from there if they hadn't have been there to get me and bring me back down to the corner," Frick said.
At approximately 3 p.m., the El Paso County Sheriff's Office issued a mandatory evacuation notice for those within the following boundaries: East of Curtis Rd and West of Slocum. South of Jones Road and North of Highway 94. Just after 3:30 p.m. the Mandatory Evacuation was downgraded to Pre-Evacuation for the same area. Some time later the Pre-Evacuation was canceled as well.
WILDFIRE: Here’s a look at the fire burning near Blaney Road in eastern El Paso County. You can tell how bad the winds are here, and notice the plume is almost totally horizontal. Red flag conditions are serious @KOAA #BlaneyFire pic.twitter.com/suvVfXvAga— Sam Kraemer (@SamKraemerTV) September 30, 2019