(TELLER COUNTY, Colo.) — Almost 500 people have been displaced due to the 403 wildfire according to both the Teller and Park County Sheriff’s Offices.
While community members say they are used to the wildfires in the area, people are saying this is one of the largest wildfire evacuations they have seen for this area in several years. Even those who have lived here for decades are evacuating for the first time.
“We’ve been here for 20 years… and we’ve never had to evacuate before,” said Teller County resident, Patty Harrison.
Harrison and her husband have been living in their trailer since Thursday, March 30, since large parts of Park and Teller County have been under mandatory evacuation and pre-evacuation orders.
“It was a little surreal just because we haven’t been through this before,” said Harrison, who said when she first heard the news, she didn’t think much of it.
The difference with the 403 Fire is that it is blowing in the direction of evacuated communities. Even with 20 years of good luck, Harrison and her husband were still prepared. They were able to leave their house within a couple hours notice of the order.
“Family photos… important documents… passports, those types of things,” Harrison said, listing off items they had at the ready for evacuation. “We know we live in a high fire danger area, and we’ve seen plenty of wildfires… So, you know, you just got to be prepared for it at any time.”
This sentiment seems to be the consensus among evacuees. Out of 438 people evacuated from the area on Thursday, only seven people went to the evacuation shelter set up by the American Red Cross at the Woodland Park Community Church that night. As of Saturday, only two people remained at the shelter.
“I personally expected more people to be in the shelter, so having just two clients was a good surprise,” said Jim Boardman, sheltering supervisor for the American Red Cross.
The shelter is set to stay open until Sunday afternoon, but will stay open longer if needed. Boardman says the lack of evacuees at the shelter is a testament to how this community has shown up for each other.
“Most people have found friends or neighbors in the area or down in the Springs to stay with and wait it out,” said Teller County Resident, Alan Caldwell.
Robyn Proper was one of those neighbors. She said she could see the smoke from her porch, and instinctually, she called her friends who lived near the area.
“It’s happened to me… We’ve taken in people before… That’s one of the best things about this community, the way people come together and help each other in a situation like this,” said Proper, who has been hosting her two friends at her house.
Even in times of crisis, the Teller County community was keeping traditions going with an Easter celebration on Saturday at the Florissant Grange. Kids in the community got Easter goodie bags, cupcakes, and even got to take pictures with the Easter bunny.
The Florissant Grange has been a home base for the community during this time.
“We’ve kind of been the central point for people to come, do briefings, get information… they can come… and have some lunch… communicate with one another, and that’s what we do,” said Caldwell, who runs the Florissant Grange with his wife.
As of day three of the 403 Fire, crews have made headway on containing the blaze. According to the Teller County Sheriff’s Office, containment is near 25% and there has been no loss of life or structures.
The Teller County Sheriff’s Office will give another update on the fire Sunday morning at 9:30 a.m. at the Florrisant Grange.
FOX21 will continue to update on the containment and evacuation orders as we get more information.