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Black Forest wildfire has residents rushing to get in, out

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jun 12 2013 01:16:04 AM CDT

Many residents were at work while others barely escaped with whatever they had time to take with them.

BLACK FOREST, Colo. -

Many neighbors in Black Forest on Tuesday were anxious about saving valuables before evacuating, while other neighbors barely escaped the advancing wildfire.

Dozens of homeowners said they were at work when they learned of the blaze, and tried to rush home to retrieve valuables and check on loved ones before evacuating.  By the time they arrived, however, roads already were closed and authorities were keeping people out of the area.

Jess Engel anxiously waited in a traffic jam near the intersection of Highway 83 and Shoup Road to learn about the fate of her family's home.

"It's pretty incredible and upsetting," she said.  "I don't know if my home's there or not."

Dan Hagel, another resident caught at the same roadblock, had many questions as he waited.

"How did it start?" he asked.  "We still don't know what started the Waldo Canyon Fire (last summer).  How long is it going to take for them to tell us in this one?"

The wildfire upset an evacuee who voiced a common wildfire complaint -- that air support took too long to arrive, even though authorities say that support arrived sooner than it usually does in a wildfire.

"We have houses behind us, and we can't get one helicopter?" he asked.  "Anything to save people's houses.  My house is going to burn.  If it does, I don't know what I'm going to think.  I always thought about this -- the big one's going to happen in the forest."

Residents who were home when the fire spread quickly, had less time then they thought to grab valuable possessions and evacuate in time.  Eric Scott said he's resigned to his house being gone when he returns.

"It's very difficult to lose everything you have and see it go up in smoke," he said.  "But the thing I'm most grateful for is that my children and my family (are) safe.  That's the most important thing."

As the line of evacuating traffic moved south on Black Forest Road, some residents seemed in good spirits.  Others were upset or crying, while many lovingly held pets in their laps.

Hagel said one of his neighbors refused to leave his home.

"He was cutting trees down (around his property)," he said.  "His wife got the police up there to get him out."

Overall, many residents were stunned that a wildfire they'd long dreaded, finally happened -- and nearly on the one-year anniversary of Waldo Canyon.  But if that fire taught Black Forest residents anything, it was to be ready to flee quickly.

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