Four Mile, Three Mile join evacuation list
A Corvette packed tight with clothes, a sleeping bag and a beefy driver eased out from Four Mile Road onto Midland Avenue, then slowly rolled north. A firefighting helicopter buzzed upvalley over the Roaring Fork River, and a pair of National Guard troop transport trucks positioned themselves a few yards from Dave Massender’s front yard.Four Mile and Three Mile Canyon residents had gotten the word before noon they should evacuate, joining the first wave of evacuees from West Glenwood Springs and north Glenwood the night before.”I’m going to do the garden hose thing, and help the neighbors,” said Massender as he loaded his family’s van so they could head out to Carbondale. “My neighbor said we’ll wait until it gets too hot, then run for the river.”Massender’s ranch-style house is located at the Y where Four Mile Road meets the Airport Road south of Glenwood Springs, and they’ve lived there for 11 months. The Coal Seam Fire burned to the north, and was at least two hills away from Massender and hundreds of others who live up Four Mile, and the more sparsely populated Three Mile.”It’s on top of the hill behind us,” Massender said as he headed back to the house for another load. “There’s this little hill, and a bigger one behind it.”Massender was loading up his 80-year-old mother, wife Lori, their 11-year-old daughter Britni, and 1-year-old daughter Erica. “They stayed last night at the Days Inn in Carbondale, but tonight they are staying with friends,” Massender said.Erica was crying a bit, as her dad carried her down the front walk and then placed her in the van. “She didn’t sleep very well last night,” he said.The Massenders packed the van as calmly as if it were for a weekend camping trip, but maybe they are just used to the routine.”Last year we got flooded out, and now this,” Lori said. “My husband said maybe it’s an omen.”Many of Saturday and Sunday’s evacuees are being housed at the Red Cross disaster center at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley Campus. There’s a Red Cross sign at the CMC turnoff traffic signals, and a steady stream of vehicles made their way up and down the twisty road all day Sunday.Most of the evacuees are being housed in the college’s gym, although senior citizens and some families are staying in the new dorms near the student center.Paula Wenger, her 11-year-old son and her mother were evacuated from the Hotel Colorado Sunday morning at 1 a.m. They spent the night at the dorm, and she joked that next time her family visits Glenwood Springs, they want to stay in the dorms.”Next time we come to Glenwood, we’ll stay at this resort. The people have been wonderful, the view is great and the price is right,” said Wenger, a Longmont resident.Wenger was sitting on a shaded bench in front of the gym/student center Sunday afternoon, waiting for her husband to come pick up her up. Last night’s stay at the Hotel Colorado progressed in stages.”They shut down food services at 6 or 7,” Wenger said.As the flames crept closer to the historic hotel from the west, Wenger, her mom and son watched them from their fourth-floor window. “At first, the flames upset him. But when they didn’t get closer he became more curious. We watched and saw that a flame that had been tall a half hour ago had gotten short.”The Wenger trio came over to Glenwood Springs on Amtrak, so she had to call her husband to come get them.Wenger said she’d enjoyed her short stay in Glenwood Springs. “We went to the caverns and on the canyon trail,” she said. But by Sunday afternoon, she said, “My son is ready to see his dad and go home.”On that note, her husband appeared. “Our knight in shining armor. I figured he’d be here in five hours, and he was.”Marianne Morning lives on Mel Ray Road in West Glenwood and was evacuated Saturday night. She is staying with friends, but was at the Red Cross center looking for Brad Laird, who rents her garden level apartment.They both loaded up and left West Glenwood at about the same time, but neither told the other where they were going. “I’m a Storm King veteran, but this was chaotic,” Morning said.Morning, who has lived in Glenwood Springs for 30 years, asked a Red Cross clerk whether Laird had checked in, but she was told he hadn’t.”I’d feel better if I knew he was comfortable,” she said. “He’s new in town, and I don’t know who his friends are.”Later, Morning posted a note on the Red Cross message board, asking for Laird to give her a call.Morning joked about people who look back at being evacuated and say, “Oh, the crap I brought.” Morning’s main items were a mandolin, a guitar and her computer.Trsi Houpt was on her way home to Oak Meadows Sunday morning with her already upset son when she learned that Four Mile neighborhoods were being evacuated as a precaution.The fire wasn’t headed that way, but authorities knew it would take too long to clear the area if it turned south.”I just have to believe it’s not going to jump into Four Mile,” Houpt said.Meanwhile, she laughed at her choice of valuables.”I was grabbing my mother’s paintings, old photos, an old clock of my grandfather’s and the pets. It was nothing practical. It was stuff we can’t replace,” she said.
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David Aguilar scans the landscape along the ridge above the Roaring Fork Valley floor where he lives and worries about the worst — another wildfire that could level his and possibly hundreds of other homes…