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Personal stories from the Black Forest fire near Colorado Springs

By: The Gazette
June 13, 2013 Updated: June 13, 2013 at 6:55 am
photo - A DC-10 slurry bomber drops a load Wednesday, June 12, 2013, on the Black Forest Fire near Highway 83 and Shoup Road.    (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
A DC-10 slurry bomber drops a load Wednesday, June 12, 2013, on the Black Forest Fire near Highway 83 and Shoup Road. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  

First glimpse of fire

Jaenette Coyne, 37, looked out the back window of her home on Peregrine Way about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Oh, I panicked. I did," Coyne said. Smoke was rising from a lot adjacent to her and husband Kristian's 5-plus acres.

She called 911, and alerted Kristian who "raced home." She checked on the fire again - and saw flames.

They packed up the computer and baby albums and left for the last time.

She has a photo of her burning home on her cellphone.

They saw a similar image taken of their home from a news helicopter. It played over and over Tuesday night on TV news reports.

"I've seen it at least 30 times," Jaenette Coyne said. "It was really hard."

On Wednesday, they were on their way to see their insurance agent.

"It's the only thing we have control over doing right now," she said.

An ark of survival

Diesel the pig, who makes sounds like a big rig, is doing fine.

He was evacuated Tuesday with an ark full of animals belonging to four families. There were at least 11 goats and enough chickens to start an omelet restaurant.

It is just one dramatic story among many as fire raged in the Black Forest area, scattering people, animals and possessions.

"It was chaos. We picked up some additional goats who were by the side of the road," said Amber Sathre, who lives on Shoup Road. Her foster dog, Tucker, is now housed at National Mill Dog Rescue. Two others are with her brother, and two have been riding around in the car with her.

After dropping some animals off, they stayed at the edge of Vollmer Road until 3 a.m. "It was so smoky we couldn't breathe, so we went to New Life Church."

Her husband, Joshua Havens, had driven from Nebraska, where he was working construction. The trip normally takes nine hours. He did it in seven. "He has built a lot of the structures in Black Forest," she said.

Her parents, Carmen and Dave Sathre, who own Black Forest Liquor Store on Black Forest Road, are fine, she added.

They hung out at the liquor store, and edged up to near Burgess and Raygor Wednesday morning, and saw the corner of a house catch fire. "I don't know if it burned. We got out of there."

Sathre isn't sure their houses are standing.

"We hear yes, we hear no."

Hoofing it

It was less than a month ago when Dick Hoffmann, 75, helped a relative bring two horses from Georgia and corralled them at his home at 8975 Hardin Road. On Tuesday, he hurried from town to get to them, but the roads were closed and he had to walk in.

A neighbor offered her alpaca trailer, but the horses, Blue, who is a gray horse, and Yellow, a Palomino, wouldn't have anything to do with it.

So Hoffmann and his son, David, hoofed it out of the evacuated area with the horses.

A homeowner at the southwest corner of Burgess and Vollmer roads called out to him that he could keep the animals in his front yard. As he was doing so, more help arrived.

"A lady with a horse trailer stopped and took them to her place in Falcon. I don't know her name, but I wrote her address on my hand," he said.

Eventually his brother-in-law, who has a trailer, took the horses to Lake George.

Hoffmann built his house 36 years ago and was remodeling it. It was still standing, though one nearby burned down, he was told by authorities. "If the wind changes I'm afraid we will be next."

There were a couple of creatures that stayed put at his house.

"We've had two raccoons living in the attic that we wanted to get rid of, and as far as I know, they are still there."

Making the best of it

At 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, Gary Roth, who lives at 8075 Burgess Road, took a photo of his house, which his father, Ted, had built decades ago. It was framed in flames arcing to the north.

He loaded his construction trailer full of household items, making sure he saved his late mother's accordion, and her piano bench. "Of course we couldn't get the piano."

But about a half-mile down the road, the trailer had a flat tire. With no electricity, they couldn't use a compressor to fix it.

Instead of cursing his fate, he grabbed the case of bottled water, hopped out of the truck and went to the aid of some Falcon firefighters who were refilling tanker trucks.

"These guys had their hands full and, oh, were they thirsty," Roth said.

He's lived in the area 43 years. As a child, he helped with the cattle at the nearby Hardin Ranch, which, he noted, is a "John Elway's stone's throw" from his house.

He heard that some of the old ranch buildings were engulfed in flames early Wednesday.

As for his own house and trailer, he said, "We have put it in God's hands."

A ride out

"I had a bad feeling for weeks, with the heat rising and the drought," Michelle Bradow said, holding her granddaughter's hand.

And when the fire came, she had about 15 minutes to evacuate her home on Swan Road. Her husband, son, daughter-in-law, her 4-year-old granddaughter, her teenage daughter and her 69-year-old father gathered as much of their valuables as they could with the help of a deputy.

"We called 911 for help to move my dad because he is disabled," Bradow said. "The deputy helped us load him into her car, along with all our animals and as much of our stuff as we could take."

The family pets included two dogs, two cats, a rabbit and 10 chickens.

They all rode in the deputy's patrol car.

Bradow and her family spent the night at New Life Church on Interquest Parkway, and were relocated to Palmer Ridge High School's Red Cross shelter Wednesday afternoon.

Shortly after they arrived, Bradow got word that the evacuation zone could be expanded to reach Monument.

"If they shut down this shelter, we'll have to keep moving north. We have family in Denver," she said.

Lessons learned

Jenny and Kerry Abernathy received a reverse 911 call Tuesday at 3:21 p.m. to evacuate their home on Frank Road.

Lessons learned from last year's Waldo Canyon fire taught them to move quickly and keep calm as they gathered their three children and pets.

"We had several evacuees stay with us last year," Jenny Abernathy said. "After seeing how they coped, we realized it's important to be ready and not to panic."

The Abernathys had photos and video of their valuables ready, as well as packets prepared with important documentation and survival items.

"All the stuff in our safe, mortgage papers, identifications, clothes and my husband's tools were ready to go," Jenny Abernathy said.

Their insurance agent said it would be OK to begin filing a claim on their home just in case.

But losing their house, which sits on 5 acres, is not their biggest concern.

"My family is safe, that's what matters. Panicking doesn't do any good. What control do we have over this situation?"


Carol McGraw, Andrea Sinclair, Matt Steiner and David Ramsey contributed to this report.

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