Residents of Cheyenne Mountain Estates mobile home park were relieved Friday to learn that an illegally parked trailer on Piute Road will be moved soon, taking with it the potential for a wildfire.
When the trailer was parked at the dead end in July, across from the entrance to the mobile home park, it was just an eyesore, residents said. But now that the occupants are starting fires inside it to keep warm, it has become a hazard.
Residents reported recently seeing flames and embers shooting out of the top of the woodstove pipe, which is not properly capped and sits about a foot off the trailer's roof. The Southwest Highway 115 Volunteer Fire Department has been called numerous times.
"Everyone is in danger of losing their home," resident Jacque Hoftyzer said. "I sit up at night keeping watch because I don't want to be killed in my sleep. I've stomped out embers that landed in my woodpile before."
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has tried for two weeks to remove the trailer but had trouble finding a company with the proper permits to move it, Lt. J.D. Ross said. The tires and hitch also need to be replaced.
"It can't be moved in the condition it's in," Ross said.
Once it's fixed, the sheriff's office will pay to haul it away, and it's working with other agencies to find a legal place to put it, Ross said. He expects it to be moved in the next week or two, he said.
The owner hauled the home there this summer with the intent of living in Cheyenne Mountain Estates but was denied when the structure failed to meet requirements, Ross said. She was told to move it off the county road but didn't have the money to haul it away, he said.
The woman, who was not identified, continued to live out of the home, despite having no electricity or running water, Ross said.
"We've been trying to work with her," he said. "We don't want to create a homeless situation."
Residents argue that their safety should come first.
Truck driver Albert Leckenby said he sees flames from the top of the trailer about 2 a.m. daily on his way home from work. He worries they'll eventually spark a fire on the field across the street or turn toward the Estates.
The county does not have fire restrictions in place, but the grasses are drying out, he said.
"I'll come in, and smoke will be barreling out of the top and sparks shooting out," Leckenby told a sheriff's deputy who drove by about 3 p.m. Friday. "It's going to set the field on fire."
The area is also a bus stop for area children, he said.
Southwest Highway 115 Fire Chief Hart Wright said he's heard residents' complaints and is "definitely concerned" about the potential fire danger but said his hands "are kind of tied."
Firefighters have been out to inspect the home and have told the occupants not to use the stove, but they have no other authority.
"We're not law enforcement," Wright said.
Hoftyzer said she's been calling every authority she can think of for the past month, all the way up to the governor's office, trying to prevent what she considers an "inevitable" fire. No one has responded.
It's not just her home that is threatened, she said. The Estates has 220 lots.
"Why does there have to be a fire for someone to listen to me? Because there will be," Hoftyzer said Wednesday. "Just last night I saw flames shooting out of there. National fires have been started for less."
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