Residents helping Mesa families who lost homes in fire
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” Residents in the small western Colorado town of Mesa pulled together Friday to help three families who lost their homes and almost everything inside to a wind-driven wildfire.
One woman had so little time before fleeing that she could only grab her purse and one of her two cats, said Matt Guedes, pastor at Mesa View Bible Church, which is collecting donations for the families. She couldn’t find the other pet and isn’t sure what happened to it, he said.
Guedes said the woman did not want to speak to reporters.
The fire broke out Thursday night in Mesa, 175 miles west of Denver, and was out by Friday afternoon. Residents of about 45 homes that had been evacuated were allowed to return.
Fire Chief Mike Harvey said the blaze was under investigation but he suspected it was human-caused because no storms were in the area at the time.
It was difficult to fight because it was in a steep drainage that leads to a small creek, Harvey said. Firefighters were also hampered by trees and brush close to the homes, which helped the fire jump from structure to structure, he said.
Authorities first estimated the fire at 10 acres but revised that downward to 3.5 acres.
Guedes said one of the destroyed homes was rented by a family who were able to get out with their pets and the third was a vacation home that wasn’t occupied at the time. The porch on a fourth house burned.
Guedes said firefighters “did an absolutely incredible job.”
He said a constant stream of cars stopped at the church Friday as residents came to donate money and people headed hiking and biking on nearby public lands stopped to see what happened.
Only one of the three families belongs to the church but Guedes said the money would be equally divided among them.
Marilyn Hayes said she pitched in some money and was looking for items to donate.
“We’re all just feeling sad and subdued today seeing this devastation in this town,” she said.
Hayes’ house is on the opposite side of the drainage from where the homes burned and she and her husband did not have to evacuate. But they spent a restless night at the fire station and then at home, listening to the wind blow outside.
“I slept with my car keys in my purse and my cat on the bed all night,” she said.
A second fire in New Castle, about 40 miles northwest of Mesa, was 90 percent contained and residents of at least 60 homes have been allowed to return.
At the peak of the 1,240-acre, lightning-caused fire, 90 homes were evacuated. Some of those homes had been threatened by the 1994 Storm King Fire, which claimed the lives of 14 firefighters.
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