ESTES PARK — More often than not, Terry Chiplin begins his days by walking across the street to enjoy the outdoors at Hermit Park.
Whether he's walking his 6-year-old canine companion, Coco, or running five miles, Chiplin begins each morning at the park across the street from his home of 15 years.
But on Tuesday, after dropping off the border collie/Australian shepherd mix at a playdate in downtown Estes Park, he found the gates of the park were closed.
"I thought, 'What's happening?'" Chiplin said. "Then my wife sent me a text message and said we got to leave."
Chiplin, his wife, Jackie, and Coco were three of several hundred people and pets forced to flee their homes on Tuesday as a fire ignited near Kruger Rock south of downtown Estes Park.
Some residents told The Denver Gazette on Tuesday that the latest evacuations were the last straw and they are now planning to move out. Others remained optimistic about the firefighting efforts that had contained the 133 acre fire to 15% as of 7 p.m.
"How do you sleep well when you know there's a fire?" Jackie Chiplin said.
"We didn't think anything of it and our generator kicked in," Wolf said. "We live high on the hill, and we looked outside, and all of a sudden we saw flames shooting in this meadow. It was frightening."
Wolf added it took between 20 and 30 minutes for the blaze to ignite half of the mountainside.
Berniece Peters, who has lived in Estes Park for 23 years, began investigating the outage and went downstairs with her daughter, Joan Michelsen, her granddaughter, Jaclyn, and great-granddaughter, Olivia, who were all visiting from Nebraska for an early Thanksgiving celebration.
"My little granddaughter knows Paw Patrol and yelled, 'Look, its Chase [a police dog in the show],' because she was seeing all the emergency and police vehicles," Michelsen said. "We looked at her and started to laugh, but then we looked out the window and saw these big flames and heavy smoke."
The flames were near Fish Creek, three blocks east of Peters' home. The family began packing and left around 8 a.m., when a mandatory evacuation notice was issued by the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.
Peters said having her family with her was a "blessing," as her husband recently had back surgery and she would have been responsible for gathering and packing everything without help.
"To me, it felt like it was God taking care of us," Peters said. "It was just such a blessing to have them here and help."
As Jackie Chiplin's husband rushed home from Hermit Park, she began frantically packing valuables, photos of loved ones, clothes — and food, toys and a bed for Coco, she said.
Twenty minutes later, they left their home behind. It brought Jackie Chiplin to tears.
"As we were going down the hill I was tearful, because I was trying to avoid going through the same thing we went through last year," she said in the parking lot of the county's evacuation site. "I can't do this again."
The Chiplins were already planning to return to their birthplace, England, to reduce the 4,000 mile distance between them and loved ones. On Tuesday, Jackie Chiplin says she was given another reason to leave Colorado and the United States.
"You always know there's a possibility of a fire, but you never think you'll be impacted by one," she said. "This is just one more reason to return to England."
Wolf shared a similar sentiment. She said she and her husband are getting too old to deal with such emergencies.
"Every year we live under the threat of wildlife and it's getting tiring, it's getting scary and even worse as we grow older," Wolf said. "We are considering leaving."
Wolf, who's originally from New York City, said they'd move back East — but to a city where hurricanes wouldn't impact their lives.
While Chiplin and Wolf were distraught and thinking about leaving the Centennial State for good, Jacqueline Beskid was thankful none of her family members got hurt, and that they were all able to gather at the community's emergency evacuation site at the Estes Park Event Center.
"Obviously we want our house to still be there, but at the end of the day, it's just stuff that can be replaced," Beskid said. "I'm out, my husband's out, and my dog's out, so that's all that matters."
Peters was more thankful that the American Red Cross and the YMCA of the Rockies were allowing her and her family to stay overnight than worrying about her home.
"I'm calm. Everything under control," she said while playing on a playground with her daughter and her great-granddaughter. "We're just so thankful the Red Cross was here, helpful and found us a place to stay."