Help comes in for displaced family

Readers touched by The Gazette story about the Vialpando family, including five adult children and their parents who lost five homes in the Black Forest fire, are asking if they can help. The 86-year-old patriarch, Mike Vialpando, and his wife, Frances, had lived in the rustic enclave known as Brentwood Estates and Cabin Sites for more than 50 years. He had built the house himself, and five of the children followed suit living nearby. Their house burned down, as did the homes of siblings Theresa, Ronald, James and Michael. The fate of Bonnie Kruse's home is uncertain but likely sustained damage.

A donation fund has been set up for the elder Vialpandos, who had no insurance and had to flee without taking anything, even their medications. The charitable gifts will be used to purchase a mobile home. They hope to stay in Black Forest. Mike Vialpando, who loves the trees, says "I'm not going anywhere else."

To donate: Send money to The Vialpando Fund, People's National Bank, 1675 Struthers Road, 80921; 488-3058. Donations can be dropped off at any local People's Bank.


Waldo victims ready to share experience

People affected by the Black Forest fire can get help from those who know what they are going through - residents who went through the Waldo Canyon fire.

Colorado Springs Together, a nonprofit that was created to help recovery efforts after Waldo, is putting the program together.

"Over the last 12 months, our community gained more experience in fire recovery than any of us would have ever wanted," said Bob Cutter, president and founder. "The most experienced people in our community are the citizens who suffered devastating losses last year; our intent is to match up those citizens whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the Waldo Canyon fire with people who suffered the same losses in the Black Forest fire."

Many Mountain Shadows residents and homeowners associations have expressed an interest in helping the Black Forest residents through the maze of insurance claims, debris removal, building permits, temporary living and other challenges.

Learn more: 593-0010, or


Rescue group hits highs and lows

Theresa Strader, founder of National Mill Dog Rescue, lost her home in the Black Forest fire. It had been the original home of the rescue group.

The current kennel, at 5335 J D Johnson Road in Peyton, was not harmed.

Still, the group received good news this week: Strader won the Springs Naturals Spring into Action campaign as the nation's most devoted animal advocate. She will receive $2,000 worth of Spring Naturals dinners and treats for dogs, plus $500.

Strader's rescue started with a one-sentence email she received: "50 Italian Greyhounds in Need." A "puppy mill" was going out of business and one of the dogs was a 7-year-old named Lily. Strader promised not only to save Lily but to put an end to the puppy mill breeding industry. At her 160-acre facility, Strader and a team of more than 1,400 volunteers, plus a small paid veterinary staff, care for rescued animals. The group has rehabilitated more than 7,000 dogs.


Families offered fun, counseling

Academy School District 20 will offer support for K-12 students who have been affected by the Black Forest fire, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the Education Administration Center, 1110 Chapel Hills Drive.

Students will participate in age-appropriate activities, and crisis counselors will be available. Research shows that one of the better ways to help children deal with a crisis is by providing social supports, and normalizing their feelings and crisis reactions.

Parents can discuss their reactions and concerns with trained professionals and receive information on how to help their children through this natural disaster.


College reaches out to fire victims

Pikes Peak Community College has set up a web page to assist students, staff and faculty affected by the fire: The Rampart Range campus remains closed due to voluntary evacuation. Classes have been redirected to an online Desire to Learn program.


Officials ready to deal with fire, flood

Just as the city was lifting its mandatory evacuation from the Flying Horse neighborhood at 3:30 p.m. Friday, it poured rain, albeit briefly.

Carl Miller, of the Colorado Springs Fire Department office of emergency management, said the team is prepared to work with victims of fires and floods.

"Post Waldo, we've really been focused on the possibility of flooding," Miller said.

Preparing for fires and floods has been part of the training for city staffers in the year since the Waldo Canyon fire, he said. The city learned a lot about communications, process and staffing after last year's fire.

For example, when the city ordered mandatory evacuation in the Flying Horse neighborhood Thursday, it sent 15 to 20 police officers to assist the 1,020 homeowners and secure the perimeter of the neighborhood to head off any possible looters. And the city called the National Guard to assist, he said.

"Evacuation went very well," he said. "We were making those decisions and planning very early to get the message out as soon as we could. We heard of no problems."


Pioneers Museum cancels two events

The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum has canceled two events because of the Black Forest fire: a Thursday preview of its upcoming exhibit, "From the Ashes: The Waldo Canyon Fire," and a Friday appreciation event for first responders.

The exhibit will open to the public June 22 during normal operating hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Range Riders cancel ride, stay at home

The Pikes Peak Range Riders board of directors canceled the annual Range Ride.

"We believe that our presence at home, and our continued support to the community and to our members and friends, is a far better use of our time and resources this next week," Pikes Peak Range Rider president Ted Severn said.

It is the second time the Range Ride, which started in 1949, has been canceled; the 2002 ride was canceled due to the Hayman fire.

The Gazette