Mail carrier evacuated 92-year-old woman as Galena Fire burned toward her home

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - 92-year-old Ingeborg Steiner credits her mail carrier with evacuating her after the sudden start of the Galena Fire Friday.

"Melinda, she's like my little guardian angel," Steiner said of her longtime mail carrier.

"She's a walking and talking history book and I just love her to death and love visiting with her," said Melinda Kontz, the mail carrier who calls Steiner by the nickname "Inge."

Back in her home on Galena Court Monday and sitting in a blue rocking chair, Steiner recalled looking out her window just before noon Friday. Where there is now just a blackened field, she saw fire creeping through the meadow.

"I was absolutely flabbergasted," Steiner said. "I couldn’t understand how something…How can it go so fast?"

Before she knew it, however, Kontz arrived to help.

Kontz said she had also spotted the fire, and skipped past many of the mailboxes on her route to get to Steiner's house. There, she took the woman's lunch out of the microwave and grabbed her coat.

"In the commotion of that a sheriff came to give her the evacuation orders, so that lady was able to help me get [Steiner] into my mail van," Kontz said.

"She put me in a mail truck and took me to the pastor's house," Steiner said.

For 20 years, Steiner said, Melinda has delivered the mail to that neighborhood. After the death of Steiner's husband in November 2010, Steiner says Melinda has checked on her well-being.

"She became a very dear friend of time. I wouldn't even classify her as a customer, I'd call her a friend first," Kontz said.

The pair have even attended church together, which is how Steiner knew the pastor who took her in for the night.

After driving Steiner from the endangered neighborhood, Melinda finished the part of her delivery route that wasn't in the evacuation zone and returned to help again.

"Melinda went to the drugstore for me, went to the eye center, got extra drops for me, did that and brought it to me at the pastor's house," Steiner said.

"They're lovely, lovely people. Absolutely so kind. Everybody caring and not thinking of themselves and doing things for me. I feel so blessed," Steiner added.

The Galena Fire is named for Steiner's neighborhood, where the fire is believed to have started. Fire officials say they think the fire was human-caused, but officials have ruled out an escaped campfire or a prescribed burn as the cause.

"I would never blame anybody, because nobody does this on purpose," Steiner said. "People, although, on the whole have to be more careful."

Meanwhile, Larimer County Emergency Services spokesman Tony Simons said Monday that 130 firefighters were holding the line on the southwestern perimeter of the fire. He said the wind grounded two helicopters Monday morning, but firefighters have made progress.

"We wish the wind would die down. Our containment lines are holding," Simons said. "At this time, there is still a lot of heat underneath the timber and in some of the areas. So that is what we’re trying to control at this point."

The Galena fire has burned 1,348 acres.

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