SAN JUAN COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A hiker who was with a group of people that had to be airlifted off a mountain because of sudden wildfire spoke with FOX31 and Channel 2 about the experience.
The Ice Fire started Monday west of Silverton in San Juan County.
Monday was a great day for a hike along the Ice Lakes trail. Several people had already made it to the Ice Lake Basin when they noticed smoke.
“I was worried as soon as I saw the smoke for sure because I knew it was blocking the path back down, and I didn’t know what to do,” Greg Anson said.
Anson and his dog Moon Dog soon ran into others who were also trying to figure out how to escape the fire.
“We were all nervous about where the fire was moving, how fast it was moving and what the best steps for us to take were. I was very frightened. I know that (wildfires) can move fast. I’ve read about the fires in California about how fast they can move,” Anson said.
The plume kept billowing along their path home.
Twenty-three hikers had gathered knowing they could be in trouble.
Luckily, one of them had a Garmin device and sent out an SOS message.
At the same time, a sheriff’s deputy noticed the large number of cars at the Ice Lakes trailhead. That deputy began to call for help after noticing a fire had started.
“That deputy knew it was important to get to those hikers fast,” San Juan County Emergency Operations Center Spokesperson DeAnne Gallegos said.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Forest Service sent helicopters to find the stranded hikers.
Time was ticking as the fire grew and very cold temperatures would set in overnight, possibly leaving hikers unprepared to spend the night on the mountain.
As choppers prepared to fly, another group of rescuers was preparing to hike up the mountain. Luckily, the air mission was successful.
“When we saw the helicopter come and land, there was a huge sense of relief,” Anson said.
Anson and Moon Dog boarded the rescue chopper with several other stranded hikers.
On the way home, a view of the mountain — from the open door of a helicopter — they never expected.
Anson’s wife is seven months pregnant. The couple is beyond grateful for the rescuers.