Cautious return allowed for evacuees
Most of the 3,000 Glenwood Springs residents evacuated since Saturday to avoid a volatile wildfire were allowed to return to their homes Monday evening.But fire officials advised residents not to linger, because the Coal Seam fire could erupt again and threaten neighborhoods.”We’re not recommending you return. We’re not suggesting you return. In many cases, we recommend you don’t return,” said Garfield County Sheriff Tom Dalessandri.”We evacuated Saturday because the threat was imminent. Now the responsibility is yours to act responsibly and make your choices wisely,” he said.”Our best recommendation is to water plants and take care of pets, then go away for a couple of days,” said Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson.Evacuation orders were lifted for the West and North Glenwood, Midland Avenue, Four Mile and No Name areas. They remain in effect for Three Mile, Mountain Springs Ranch and South Canyon.The announcement lifting the evacuation order was met with applause from evacuees who attended an 8 p.m. press conference on the front steps of the county courthouse.Roadblocks were lifted at 8 p.m.State Rep. Gregg Rippy, who lives on Creekside Court in West Glenwood, has been staying at his dad’s home. He said he would go home briefly tonight to shave and tend his cats, and then spend the night at the home of friends.He said many returning evacuees will find their home’s gas supply shut off, but reported that electricity is back on in two-thirds of the evacuated areas.”The municipal power crews have really knocked themselves out today,” Rippy said Monday night. At first, officials predicted it would take up to four days to repair damage to electrical lines. But much of the work was completed Monday.People living in West Glenwood and along Midland Avenue were evacuated on Saturday afternoon and evening from the threat of the Coal Seam Fire. Residents of No Name were evacuated in the early morning hours of Sunday, and residents of Three Mile and Four Mile roads were evacuated as a precaution on Sunday. Three Mile Creek remains evacuated because the fire still presents “a more immediate threat to residences, and quick evacuation is difficult,” Coal Seam Fire incident commander Steve Hart said.”We’re not encouraging or spurring people to go in, but we do feel we have enough of a grasp on things,” Wilson said of places where people have been allowed back home. The incident command team managing the fire suppression effort stressed that they are by no means recommending that citizens reinhabit their homes. They are allowing it so people can take care of business at home. The incident command team added that fire behavior and weather conditions are still dangerous, so people who move back into areas close to any active fire need to realize they will see the following events for several days:-Spot fires – including the sudden ignition of trees and stands of brush. -Heavy smoke – the fire is still active and will produce large amounts of smoke.-Fire personnel – the fire is still active, so crews will still be actively monitoring the fire. Those who return home are also asked to follow a few rules until the fire gets under control. Officials ask residents that they:-Not water excessively, as firefighters might need the water.-Not panic at seeing spot fires. They are going to occur, so don’t flood the 911 system with non-emergency calls. -Report any non-fire damage or loss to the appropriate law enforcement agency, but understand that it may be a few days before they are able to take a report. “Remember, this fire is still active and not contained. It can still present a danger to any of the areas that have been evacuated over the last few days,” the news release said. “If what you see from your home causes you serious concern, we encourage you to relocate. The Red Cross evacuation center at CMC will be open for approximately one week,” the release noted.As a result of the fire damage, some homes may be without electricity, but it will be repaired as soon as possible. Also, Kinder Morgan will turn natural gas back on as soon as possible and will contact each home and assist with relighting gas pilots for all gas appliances. In a news release from Kinder Morgan, the company urges people not to attempt to turn on gas meters or to attempt to relight pilots. Once people are let back into their homes, the company will send workers door-to-door to turn on meters and light pilots. The workers will work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. until all each residence and business has been contacted.If the resident is not home when the Kinder Morgan representative comes by, a tag will be left on their door with instructions on how to reschedule the service call.
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