Updated: June 24, 2012 at 12:00 am
It was a day of anxiety and drama for residents of Manitou Springs and others who were driven from their homes by the threat of the Waldo Canyon fire.
Evacuees flooded into a shelter set up at Cheyenne Mountain High School about 2 a.m. Sunday after Manitou Springs fire officials ordered people in the town to flee as winds whipped the fire. That evacuation order was lifted Sunday evening.
The Red Cross sheltered 218 people at Cheyenne Mountain High School Saturday night.
Between 200 to 300 people came and went throughout the day Sunday, said Catherine Barde, spokesman for the Pikes Peak Chapter of American Red Cross.
Spokesman Bo Sells said that the Salvation Army fed 250 people at breakfast and expected 300 for dinner.
Around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, it was announced residents from Manitou Springs could return home.
“I am glad to go home, but very sad for mother earth,” said Jennifer Jeffcott as she was leaving for Manitou.
Joe Payne, another Manitou resident, decided to spend the night in Colorado Springs.
“I don’t want to rush back into an area where there were giant flames a day ago. I’ll give them some more time,” he said.
Payne had been staying at Cheyenne Mountain High School but moved to Rocky Mountain Health Care Services to stay with his dog.
Payne said he could see the fire from his home Saturday.
“It was lighting the trees up like match sticks,” Payne said.
He was in town when he saw the plume of smoke rising and rushed back home.
“You could hear the fire killing the trees,” he said.
Other residents were also fearful for their homes after watching the fire and smoke.
“If the wind reversed, in 30 minutes it would be all over,” said Tom Crouch another Manitou resident.
Scarlett Johnson, a single mom with a son, 8, and a daughter, 13, grabbed photos, birth certificates and family heirlooms as well as their cat, dog and guinea pig before going to the shelter.
Before the evacuation order was lifted, Johnson’s children were afraid for their home.
“They are holding up a strong face, but inside they scared we are going to lose everything,” Johnson said.
Some Manitou Springs residents planned to stay with friends.
That was the plan for Judy Jacoby, a Manitou Springs resident who watched the advancing flames from her house Saturday evening. But she ended up at the shelter for a few hours early Sunday morning waiting for her friend to wake up.
“We didn’t think they (friends) would appreciate us showing up with five animals so early in the morning,” Jacoby said, laughing
Cheyenne Mountain High School was providing shelter for the pets of evacuees though Community Animal Rescue Team, run by the Colorado Springs police.
Veterinarians on site to provided medical attention for overheated and stressed pets.
The volunteers received a small mountain of pet food as well as swimming pools to cool off pets.
“This community always responds well to disasters,” said Bob Harris the supervisor for the animal rescue team.
Single mom Cristyl Wernsman and her two children, 11 and 8, spent the $354 they had planned to spend on a fishing trip buying pet food and Powerade to donate.
Many people also sacrifced their time to help evacuees, including 35 registered volunteers who worked with animals and 10 to 15 Salvation Army volunteers.
There are about 20 Red Cross volunteers, two nurses and crisis counselors staffing the evacuation center.
An emergency medical technician, Joe Law extended his vacation to help with evacuees.
Law said he saw a lot of deyhydration and diabetics without medication. The most major need was a lung disease patient in need of oxygen.
“Things are going so smooth at the moment,” he said.
Law planned to volunteer through Thursday.
All evacuees are encouraged to register at safeandwell.org so family members can check on them and so they can be contacted if their house is damaged.