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403 Fire Day 3: Citizens voice concern with emergency alert system at 403 Fire press briefing

PARK COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- The 403 Fire, near the Park County and Teller County line, is 25% contained and went up slightly and now sits at 1,286 acres, as of 6:30 P.M., according to Park County officials.

Saturday morning at the Grange in Florissant, multiple entities held a briefing on the progress of the fire as well as a 'Q & A' with local residents and evacuees.

"I've never experienced anything like this," Teller County displaced resident Jose Aday said. "It's overwhelming and emotional. Especially, I didn't get notice until the last hour of mandatory evacuation so everything was in a rush, I wasn't able to get clothes or medication. I just got my animals and left."

There are evacuation shelters in place in Lake George and Woodland Park. For animals, there is one in Divide for pets and one in Lake George for large animals and livestock. But many evacuees are staying in nearby hotels or with friends and family.

"We're staying in a hotel in the Springs and running out of money," Aday said. "So trying to see what to do tonight, hopefully we'll stay in a shelter."

Evacuees are signed up to be escorted back into their homes to retrieve things they didn't get before. Such as clothing, pet food, sentimental valuables, and medication.

"We have crews around the perimeter of the fire and around all of the structures involved within the fire perimeter," South Park District Ranger Josh Voorhis said with the U.S. Forest Service. "We're keeping an eye on all those structures."

With an early season fire, the grasses are drier. Changing typical fire behavior seen in the summer months.

The Forest Service is working on fire mitigation around the structures as well. Such as removing brush and cutting trees.

"The primary carrier of the fire, what's driving the fire is dried grass," Voorhis said. "So those are lower relative flame lengths. So we've been able to keep it mostly on the ground. When it's those lower flame lengths our crews are able to engage and be effective."

Information from morning press conference:

According to Teller County Sheriff Mikesell, the fire is in challenging terrain, making it difficult to firefighters to get inward due to the possibility that the wind could change at any moment and become dangerous for crews. That's also affected their ability to properly map out the fire.

They hope later Saturday they could get an aerial view of the fire and officially figure out the lines of it. Officials aren't releasing specific details on where the fire is now in an effort to not panic people who aren't in the line of fire due to a difference in the information they get and what current maps say.

Overall, there aren't a lot of updates because of not being able to get into the fire.

Residents shouldn't expect to go home today, even if containment grows.

At this time, no houses have been reported lost.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

This came as many citizens voiced concerns over the alert systems - specifically in Park County. Many residents said they never received any information from Park County's emergency alert system. A spokesperson for the Park County Sheriff's Office said officials are doing their best - and they were told to speak to a Park County Commissioner.

That commissioner said they suspect the issue stems from their addressing listing them in Florissant, which is in Teller County, saying they've had those kinds of problems in the past when it comes to calling dispatch. They were told to provide their contact information to the commissioner and stated they were going to look into where the communication broke down.

On a positive note, Sheriff Mikesell thanked the grilled cheese food truck that went out Friday and fed more than 200 firefighters battling the flames.

Earlier Reporting:

Aviation resources were ordered. However, windy conditions didn't allow for safe or effective operations Friday. Fire officials hope Saturday they can go forward with these resources as the winds are expected to mellow.

Although no structures have been lost, they are threatened.

The mandatory evacuations in place are:

  •  Residents in the 1-mile area of County Road 403 and Alpine Meadow Lane
  • In Teller County:
    • Wilson Lakes Subdivision
    • Forest Glenn Subdivision

Pre-evacuation in Teller County:

  • La Montana Mesa
  • Las Brisas

Fire officials say if you live in a pre-evacuation area to be ready to go.

Road Closures:

All of county road 403 is closed. Fire officials say to use nearby county road 61 and county road 98 to evacuate.

For nearby County Road 61 and County Road 98 toward Blue Mountain ranch and ID will be needed to pass the roadblock on CR 98 to get to the Wagon Tongue, Echo Valley Estates, and Beaver Valley Estates.

Evacuation Shelters and Locations:

  • People: Lake George Community Center, located at 39141 US 24, Lake George, CO 80827. 
  • Large animals and livestock: Lake George Fairgrounds located at 37371 Highway 24 in Lake George, C 80827.
  • Small cats and dogs: Teller County Animal Shelter, 308 Weaverville Rd, Divide. Please call 719-686-7707 with questions

The Teller County Animal Shelter is accepting donations. For more information, click here.

According to the Teller County Sheriff's Office, other donations can be dropped off at:

  • The Lake George Fire Department in Lake George
  • The Teller County Sheriff's Office in Divide

Below are the items that can help firefighters:

  • Gatorade
  • Eyedrops
  • Coughdrops
  • Chapstick

For Teller County evacuees:

  • Woodland Park Community Church at 800 Valley View Drive in Woodland Park has been set as the evacuation shelter

Monetary donations are also accepted. For Park County they can be dropped off at the Lake George fire station, and for Teller County they can be dropped off at the Sheriff's Office in Divide. 

Anyone who needs to return to the evacuation zone to pick up essentials or animals is asked to stop at any roadblock. They will be escorted back in for a brief period.

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Natasha Lynn


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