Gold Hill Fire Evacuees Seek Answers About Homes

Frustrated Residents Gather For The First Time

Gold Hill fire evacuees desperate to know if their homes are still standing organized a community informational meeting Tuesday.

"We're on pins and needles waiting for word about our homes," said John Sand, a Gold Hill resident and meeting coordinator.

At one point during Tuesday morning's meeting at Boulder's Chatauqua Park, a helicopter headed to the fire scene flew over, and the several dozen people gathered cheered.

They've communicated via e-mail and cell phone, but it was the first time many of the members of the close-knit community have seen each other since their dash to get out alive.

"My husband told me there were about four houses in the subdivision that burned," said Deborah Steinmann.

Others quickly asked, "Does he know which ones?"

"He knows some of them," she replied grimly and then started crying.

"Until just a little while ago, I've held it together just fine," said Steinmann. "But the reality that's about to confront everyone is going to be really difficult."

"We were really scared that we were going to die, so we brought our cars and our dogs and our computer and couldn't think of anything else to bring, so we left almost everything," said Karel Starek.

He said as he was driving away, he saw flames crest the ridge where his house once stood.

He heard from a firefighter's family members that crews saw flames inside his home.

"I feel a great sense of loss -- mostly that we don't have a home. We have a place to stay, but we don't have a home. It's still sinking in," said Starek.

Though smoke still billowed behind them, community members found support.

"It's really emotional. I think the first layer for all of us was just grateful, we were all alive and fine and out safely, but the difficult piece is seeing people's losses," said Steinmann.

After hearing too many rumors, many said information from family members of volunteer firefighters currently on the front line was a welcome change.

"There's frustration that we're not able to get solid, hard information about what houses -- other than eyewitness reports," said Sand.

The group plans to meet again Wednesday if the evacuation order stands.