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After escaping unharmed from Storm King fire, local family loses homes to Coal Seam fire

Dennis Webb

The Amichaux family somehow escaped harm when the Storm King fire of July 6, 1994, neared the campground but stopped short of it.

This time, they weren’t that lucky.

Several homes belonging to their extended family, and possibly their Ami’s Acres campground, were consumed by Saturday’s inferno as it swept over their properties on the far end of West Glenwood late Saturday afternoon.

“This (fire) was different,” said Craig Amichaux, who at 9 p.m. Saturday sounded as in shock over the speed with which the fire moved as he was over the losses his family incurred.

The fire had started in South Canyon but managed to cross to the Colorado River’s north side, near the campground.

“It was unbelievable. There was no warning whatsoever on this side of the river.”

He described the fire to his sister, Cheryl Dunlap, as having 50-foot flames.

She was unable to be with her family Saturday, because the closing of Interstate 70 kept her from getting to them from her home north of Silt. “I’m a little concerned; I wish I could get in there,” she said.

The fire took the houses of her aunt, Janice George, and her cousin, Troy Gordon, Amichaux said. Her brother also believes it consumed his duplex.

His family couldn’t stick around long enough to find out, but they also believe their campground, owned by his parents, Paul and Jacky Amichaux, also didn’t survive the flames.

“Based on what I saw I don’t think there’s anything but ashes,” Craig Amichaux said.

There was no time to evacuate anything from the properties, he said.

Driving east on Highway 6, he also saw several other houses completely engulfed in flames, he said.

And then there’s the matter of what he wasn’t able to see. Besides being uncertain about the condition of their campground, the Amichauxs didn’t know about the well-being of all of its occupants.

It was full of campers on this early-June weekend, and the evacuation occurred too quickly to know whether everyone got out.

“It was a mad scramble. The mountainside just got completely engulfed in fire,” Amichaux said. “It just happened so quick it was unbelievable.”

The Amichauxs had been aware of the fire since earlier in the afternoon, after it started up South Canyon.

Later in the day, Forest Service officials informed the campground that if the fire jumped the river, it would have to be evacuated.

“Next thing you know, I looked up behind (the campground) and the mountain was just completely engulfed in fire. Everybody just ran for their cars and drove out.”

They headed for the Glenwood Springs Mall, “and while we were at the mall it looked like a wall of fire starting to come to the mall,” Amichaux said.

“… It didn’t look like a good place to stay,” said Amichaux, whose family ended up heading to a friend’s residence in Rock Gardens in No Name to spend the night.

Dunlap said the home of her ex-husband, Dennis Dunlap, was located near her family’s properties and also burned. Another house in the vicinity, which she used to own, also was reportedly burning.

She said her aunt apparently lost pets in the fire.

“She said they didn’t get all their pets out.”

Dunlap had a hard time believing another fire would bear down on her family’s properties, after the near-miss in 1994.

“Who’d a thought … that it would happen again?”

Amichaux said he had assumed the 1994 fire had eliminated the flammable vegetation near the campground.

“I thought all the bad stuff had burned out on that Storm King Mountain,” he said.

Dunlap said she doesn’t know how long Ami’s Acres has been in the family. Her father bought the business from his parents when he was 18.

But she said that between the 1994 fire scare, and the damaging blaze eight years later, he’s probably done with that location.

“Dad doesn’t think he’ll hang out for the next eight,” she said.


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