‘It’s great to be home:’ Evacuees grateful for community support amid firefighting efforts
As Ptarmigan Fire evacuees are settling back into their homes, they can’t help but be thankful for the work community leaders have done to protect them.
Ed Marks, president of the Hamilton Creek homeowners association, said all of the local officials he’s interacted with have been gracious, supportive and receptive, which he said has kept him and his neighbors at ease during a stressful time.
“To know that all these resources are here to protect the things that we value — our homes and the nature around us — is so important and meaningful to us,” Marks said. “It gives us a real sense of security that if anything goes wrong, the resources we have here to deal with it are the best possible.”
Evacuees were allowed to head home starting at 10 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 30.
“It’s great to be home,” Marks said. “It’s great to still hear all the helicopters in the air. … There’s definitely a lot of resources everyone has thrown at the fire to contain it, and we’re very, very grateful for that.”
Summit Fire & EMS spokesperson Steve Lipsher said the fire is an estimated 83 acres. He said there have been about 155 firefighters on the ground Thursday and that they have made significant progress. Crews are expecting to have a containment estimate sometime Friday, Oct. 1.
“Everything is moving along in the right direction on this fire,” Lipsher said. “They’ve been able to make some really good progress on the ground, attacking the heel of the fire and the areas closest to the subdivisions.”
Lipsher said there hasn’t been any active fire behavior during the day Thursday.
“If you look up on the hill, you might see some very small wisps of smoke, but you would have been hard pressed to see any flame or anything along those lines,” Lipsher said. “It is still burning, and there’s a lot of down timber in that burn area where it could smolder for days or even weeks. … You might see visible flame up on the hill as things dry out as we get a little bit of wind as we get hotter afternoon temperatures and lower humidities.
“We want people to be reassured that if they see smoke or fire from that area, we know about it, and we’re working on it.”
Weather has continued to help firefighting efforts, Lipsher said, noting that the county’s fire danger was brought down to moderate.
“That’s indicative of how much moisture we got and how it is that much less likely for vegetation to burn, for fire to spread rapidly — not impossible, less likely,” Lipsher said.
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said pre-evacuation status will remain in place until risks are further mitigated. He said credentialing for residents will continue as long as there is heavy equipment and aircraft in the area and that staff is working with homeowners to ensure everyone can access their homes.
North Pond Park and all trails leading into the Ptarmigan Fire burn area are closed to public access. The closure is in place for firefighter and public safety and to prevent interference with firefighting efforts.
Resident Dan Wall lives on Lakeview Circle, the first area evacuated Monday. That night, he was out of the house when he got the evacuation alert and wasn’t able to get back to his home.
“We found out that we were evacuated, so we raced on home, and they wouldn’t let us up to the house,” Wall said. “So we just had the clothes on our backs, and a good friend of ours who lives across the street from Hamilton Creek invited us to stay the night.”
Wall was able to get back home during a window Wednesday morning to retrieve important belongings, and he and his family left to stay at their Denver apartment.
“I thought the people, the community leaders and the firefighters and all the folks involved were so good,” Wall said. “… I’m just real proud of our whole community effort among those people whose jobs it is to help us save our lives and our property. They did such a wonderful job, and they ought to be congratulated. They went above and beyond just doing their jobs.”
Jay Harlan, another Hamilton Creek resident, is also grateful for law enforcement’s efforts, particularly after he thought he lost everything most important to him.
Harlan has a trailer that he filled with his family’s most cherished belongings prior to evacuating, and he had been storing it at Silverthorne Elementary School. But at around 8:30 a.m. Thursday, he went back for the trailer, and it was gone.
“When you evacuate, you take things that can’t be replaced,” Harlan said.
After a few hours, the Silverthorne Police Department was able to find the trailer with all of Harlan’s belongings inside.
“They found it, and they’re great,” Harlan said. “It’ll take a little bit to get it back, but all my stuff is in it. You gotta hand it to (Silverthorne Police Chief) John Minor and his crew. … They’re my heroes.”
Harlan also applauded the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for its diligence in managing the fire, saying it did “an exceptional job.” He returned to his home in Hamilton Creek on Thursday morning and said the process went smoothly.
“I thought it was managed very well by our city government, and everyone was kind and professional — outside of somebody trying to steal all my stuff,” Harlan said.
All areas — including Hamilton Creek, Angler Mountain Ranch, South 40 and Ptarmigan neighborhoods as well as people who live east of Summit County Road 2020 and north of Summit County Road 2021 — remain in pre-evacuation status, and residents are advised to be vigilant and ready to go should conditions change. Any resident who still needs credentials can obtain them from 8-11 a.m. Friday at Silverthorne Town Hall, 601 Center Circle.
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