WALDO CANYON FIRE: Challenging time for town's new mayor

June 26, 2012
photo - Lorrie Worthey was sworn in as mayor of Green Mountain Falls in April. Photo by
Lorrie Worthey was sworn in as mayor of Green Mountain Falls in April. Photo by  

When Lorrie Worthey was sworn in April 15 as mayor of Green Mountain Falls, she didn’t expect such a huge challenge like wildfire evacuations and a disjointed community to confront her so quickly.

Just over two months into her first tenure as a public official, Worthey is focused on connecting her now scattered constituency. Everyone in the town of 800 people was ordered to leave their homes Sunday as the Waldo Canyon fire spread.

“We’re trying to encourage them that we’re all in this together as a community,” Worthey said Tuesday, while sitting in Woodland Park as a plume of dark smoke rose over the eastern horizon. “Our biggest fear for the longest time has been this happening. And now here I am learning as I go.”

Worthey returned from a Colorado Municipal League Conference on Friday and was working Saturday morning at an adventure race in Green Mountain Falls when she saw a small plume puffing up from the woods across Highway 24.

“I was volunteering on the zip line and saw the smoke,” Worthey said, remembering it was sometime just after 11 a.m.

About 10 minutes later, other Green Mountain Falls officials were summoning the mayor on a walkie talkie and telling her everyone “needed to take a break” from the race. As the flames quickly spread, the mayor and her staff began tending to fire business, including making a resolution to close all trails near the town.

Worthey and her trustees were to meet Sunday morning to pass the resolution, but received a reverse-911 call before they had a chance. The order came from fire officials to clear the town.

Worthey said everyone except five people left immediately.

“I was very impressed with the cooperation of our folks,” she said. “They took it very seriously.”

Now the new mayor is spending her days in direct communication with trustee Howard Price, who is posted in Colorado Springs. She is also in touch with police Chief Tim Bradley, who is still in the town between Colorado Springs and Woodland Park patrolling streets and keeping homes safe.

The mayor is staying in Divide so she can be close to the Summit Elementary School evacuation shelter. She’s spending evenings attending meetings at the shelter and trying to stay in touch with all Green Mountain Falls citizens. Three town families have taken refuge at Summit.

“All of us need to realize that fire is so erratic,” Worthey said. “It can happen and it can go quickly. My job at this time is to connect with the citizens and make sure they stay informed.”

Worthey encourages all Green Mountain Falls residents to go to the town website at sites.google.com/site/townofgreenmountainfalls to get updates from her and other town officials. She said she is hoping to meet others at the nightly shelter meetings.

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