'That day was a comedy of errors': Marshall Fire victims criticize emergency response

Neighbors say they received no evacuation notice
'A comedy of errors': Marshall Fire victims criticize emergency response
Posted at 8:27 AM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 10:28:21-05

SUPERIOR, Colo. — Standing together in the rubble of Superior's Sagamore subdivision, a group of former residents is taking a stand.

"We had no warning of any kind," Erica Solove said to the group. "Truly, it's a miracle we are all still alive."

The Marshall Fire came to her doorstep without warning on Dec. 30.

"My husband was taking video out the window, 'Wow, look how this this big cloud is,'" Solove said, remembering that she called 911 to see if a fire was nearby. "And they said, 'No, we don't know anything about the need for an evacuation in that area.'"

Solove said their house was on fire minutes later, and they barely had time to load their two young children into the car and escape.

"Barefoot, cold, no wallet. We barely made it out with our lives," she said. "'Run. Don't pack anything up, just get in your car and run' — so that's how we evacuated our neighborhood, like neighbor to neighbor."

Next door, 18-year-old Julia Crawley and her sister were home alone.

"No alarms, no sirens, no anything," she said. "We were on the phone with my mom, and she's like, 'No, I'm signed up for all the evacuations, all the notifications. Nothing's coming through.'"

By the time they realized the danger, they also barely had time to get out of their home.

"It was like running for your life," Crawley said. "We were, like, if we don't get out right now, we are going to be trapped in a burning house."

When minutes mattered, this group says the emergency response system came up short. Neighbors notified and rescued each other, and their neighborhood was a lost cause.

"I would describe the response as nonexistent," Solove said. "When the fire trucks arrived to tap the fire hydrants, there was no water to spray. Even just hearing a fire or siren on a fire truck driving into our neighborhood I think would have let us all know, 'OK, it's time to go. This is real.' And I think a better emergency response in whatever shape or form could have bought us all more time to have escaped with pets, valuable belongings or maybe even just shoes. Shoes would have been great that day."

"I think it's really important for our story to be told, especially about us having no warning," Crawley said. "Those systems should have been in place."

For the people who lost everything, this is the start of a conversation that consists of asking tough questions about what went wrong that day and, more importantly, what is being done to keep it from happening again.

"That day was a comedy of errors. Many things went wrong," Solove said. "I just feel that this story is important to tell because I don't want it to happen to anyone else. The last thing I want to do is criticize the brave men and women who are first responders, but this was a communication and leadership breakdown, and we want answers, and I want to understand why we had to be heroes for ourselves."