Suzanne Harrison was riding her bike in the Bakers Bridge area Friday morning when she noticed smoke near her home. She pedaled home as fast as she could, but by the time she got there, the evacuation orders were already in place. She couldn’t get in.
Her husband was home. He quickly packed clothes and old family photos. The cell service was patchy, so Harrison had a hard time reaching him. He didn’t have time to gather everything they would need.
“There’s definitely things I would do differently,” she said. “I wish I had a better communication plan with my husband. If one of us is there and one of us is not, what does the other person want?”
The 416 Fire has forced hundreds of residents to consider what they would pack in a moment’s notice. The fire, which broke out about 10 a.m. Friday, led to the evacuation of 825 homes and placed 760 homes on pre-evacuation notice. As of Sunday the fire had grown to 2,255 acres and was 10 percent contained.
Harrison, who has been staying with a friend in Edgemont Ranch subdivision, said she was in good spirits Sunday although her house was just across the road from the blaze.
“I feel inconvenienced a little bit, but that’s nothing compared to being in danger,” she said.
Harrison had been preparing for the upcoming fire season, including uploading pictures to the cloud during her free time so they would be safe. Once she is allowed back, she’ll upload them at a quicker pace, she said. She’s also slightly concerned about a propane tank on her grill that is next to her house.
“I would make sure that things that are irreplaceable I have packed up and ready to go,” she said. “I don’t think this is the last fire we’re going to have this summer.”
Harrison said she received numerous text messages and offers from friends for places to stay.
“I really feel like the community is looking out for each other,” she said.
Charlie Diehl was in Bayfield Friday and didn’t hear about the fire until later in the day. His wife received a call and decided to evacuate. She packed and left their Rockwood home 30 minutes before the evacuation order.
Diehl met his wife at La Quinta Inn & Suites, where the couple have been staying. “Everybody is comparing stories, spreading rumors. There’s all these people here with their dogs that got evacuated,” he said.
He said he and his wife are sorry they didn’t create a list of items to pack in the event of an emergency. The couple has spent time and money buying clothes and running errands.
Several residents have called a community hotline asking if they can return home for pets, medications or other essential items, said Ron Corkish, volunteer manager for the center. Some want to know how they can get clothes, and others, where they can submit donations.
The hotline, open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., received 356 calls on Friday and 445 on Saturday. It was staffed by 50 volunteers at the La Plata County Communications and Emergency Operations Center, in Bodo Industrial Park.
“We’re often the connection between the individual and calls and which working group can help them,” said David Austin, a volunteer.
For those without internet access, the call center is the main source of information, said Eve Pressler, a hotline volunteer.
The center returns calls as information becomes available. It has eight phone lines, and while one volunteer fields a call, others begin problem-solving for the caller. Others help organize information in case return calls are needed.