Dozens of evacuees, who live along Magnolia Road, were allowed to return home briefly today to retrieve personal items.
The residents are among thousands who were ordered out of their homes on Sunday after high winds switched directions and threatened to push the Cold Springs Fire into their neighborhood.
“It’s very, very surreal up here,” said Dr. Pie Frey. “It’s very quiet, very still and it almost leads to a panic not knowing what’s going on up there.”
Frey said that as she was told to evacuate on Sunday, she could see black smoke on a nearby ridge. “But it looks very clear today,” she said.
Frey said she and her neighbors are “very upset with the (transient) campers" who are being blamed for starting the fire.
Authorities said two men from Alabama failed to properly extinguish their campfire.
“They just walked away,” Frey said.
Evan Wasoff, another resident who lives along Magnolia Road told Denver7 that residents have complained about transient campers for years.
Last fall, the fire chief showed a Denver7 crew several tents full of trash that the transients left behind. He also pointed out some campground signs that were riddled with bullet holes.
“We’d like to see them ban camping,” Wasoff said.
He said the forest service doesn’t have the manpower to enforce existing rules.
“They (seemingly) have one ranger in three counties,” he said.
“I’m trying not to focus too much on the (fire’s) cause,” said Ives Beauvineau, a resident who has lived in the area for three years.
“We love living in the mountain, close to nature,” he said. “When you live here, there will be risks.”
Beauvineau said the fire could easily have been started by lightning or by someone tossing a cigarette out of their moving car.
When asked what items he felt were the important to remove from his home in the ten minutes he was allotted, Beauvineau said, “We love camping. We just came back from three days in Indian Peaks. Backpacking, for me, is what’s important – my backpack and my tent. For other people, it might be something else.”
Holly Widdowfield said the short time allotted really “forces you to see what’s important in your life.”
She said, “You get your spouse, your dog, your cat, your animals, bring your medications, I.D.s, insurance papers and any kind of clothing.”
Widdowfield said it was important for her and her husband to check up on their house. She said it’s still standing.
She also said neighbors were in danger of losing their home.
“One was telling us last night that he watched firefighters save his home four times,” she said.
Widdowfield said this isn’t the first wildfire she’s seen up close.
“They’re an unbelievable force,” she said. “I remember the Black Tiger Fire in 1989.”
That fire blackened 2,100 acres and destroyed 44 homes and other buildings.
Widdowfield said she watched some of them go up in smoke.
“You just watched those houses and they’d pulse and poof and pulse and poof,” she said. “It’s always black smoke. That’s when you knew it was a house or a propane tank or a car or something. It’s awful.
In 1990, the Old Stage Fire consumed 10 homes and 3,000 acres.
In 2003, the Overland Fire destroyed 12 homes and burned 3,500 acres.
And in 2010, the Four Mile Canyon Fire destroyed 162 homes and burned 5,700 acres.
Widdowfield said she’s hopeful that firefighters can stop the Cold Springs Fire from becoming as destructive as the other four.