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Local ‘It was hard to drive away’

Cortez Journal Tuesday June 26, 2012

weber fire e vacuee stories

Evacuee hopes for the best as fire rages on By Suzy meyer Journal publisher

Driven from her home on Road H south of Mancos by the Weber Fire, Linda McDarby keeps calling her landline. When the answering machine picks up, she knows her home is still standing. So far, the connection hasn’t been broken. McDarby, a Cortez Journal employee, was at work late Friday afternoon when her husband, Dave, phoned to say a wildfire had started near their house in Weber Canyon. Soon the emergency scanner came to life, providing lots of information about which fire departments were responding — and

none at all about what was happening at McDarby’s house. She grabbed her purse and left for home. She didn’t get past the Mancos water dock. “People were collapsing in hysteria,” she said of others who were being kept from their homes and families. “People were nearly coming to blows. A couple people blew by the roadblock.” Two and a half hours later, a Montezuma County Sheriff ’s deputy asked for her identification and let her pass. “Get your stuff and get out,” he told her. On her way home, she drove past a herd of deer grazing serenely in a lush alfalfa field, paying no attention to the threat of fire or the traffic on the road. That evening, there was no fire on their side of the hill, so the family had time to plan and to gather what they wanted to take with

them. The next morning, though, a thundercloud from the fire was looming overhead, and they knew it was time to go. At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, another deputy knocked on their door. “You need to get out NOW,” he said. “It was hard to drive away,” McDarby said, “to have to pull out of the driveway and not know ....” Her voice trailed off. The couple, whose household also includes her sister Debbie and several dogs, checked into the EconoLodge in Cortez. “They’ve been great,” she said. “They gave evacuees a different rate and didn’t charge for pets.” At least five groups of evacuees are staying there, as well as some firefighters. Friends, coworkers and the community at large also have been incred-

Photo courtesy of Linda Mcdarby

This phoTo was taken from Linda McDarby’s property in Weber Canyon as the fire raged a short distance away.

ibly supportive, she said, but that support does not completely counter the stress of not knowing whether her home will be spared. “I just wish I could visually see the place. “If it’s gone, we’ll deal with it, but I need to see for myself.” McDarby lay awake at night in her motel room, thinking of what she left behind — not material possessions, which can be replaced, but sentimental things. Every photo and every video of her son’s entire life was on the other side of the evacuation line. The news, she knew, could be worse. Another evacuee staying in the same motel also has been phoning home, but her machine hasn’t been answering. Editor’s note: At press time Monday, McDarby’s home was untouched.

Evacuees wait, worry and hope for the best By KimBerly Benedict Journal Staff Writer MANCOS — As ash floated down from the smoke-filled sky, Barbara Rose kept worried eyes on the smoldering hillside above her home in the Elk Springs Ranch subdivision Saturday afternoon. The Weber fire was advancing. Rose and her husband were evacuated from their home in the subdivision around 7 p.m. on Friday evening. They returned to the Mancos Hill staging area at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning to watch, and wait for word on the condition of their home. Concern filled their eyes and words. “What else are we going to do but sit and watch?” Rose asked, eyes shaded against the glare of the sun, searching for hope in the thick clouds of smoke rising into the summer skies. “This is our community.” For many residents of the Mancos Valley, the past four days have been filled with emotion as they were told to leave their homes and left with little information on the status of their property and belongings. The evacuation orders began Friday evening around 4:30 p.m. and are still in affect today (Tuesday). On Friday, Law enforcement officials knocked on doors and told residents they should prepare to leave their homes. The second knock at the door brought news the evacuation notice had turned to a mandatory evacuation order. Most were told to leave immediately. Law enforcement knocked on 110 doors in the Mancos Valley Friday and Saturday, telling people it was time to get out before the fire made a

JournaL/saM Green

VerA sTromsTed discusses being evacuated from Weber Canyon.

worry evident in her voice and on her face. “I know everything around my house has burned, and I just want to go home.” In a public briefing at Boyle Park in Mancos Saturday evening, Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell warned area residents against trying to return to their property before evacuation orders are lifted. “We know you want to get back home and we want you to get back home, but if you try and run past the road blocks to get back to your home you will be arrested,” Spruell said. “Don’t do that to us. Don’t make us go save your life and pull people away from this fire.” Residents of Elk Springs Ranch and Elk Stream subdivision in East Canyon are still waiting for information on their homes. And watching the smoke billow thick and dark in the sky is doing nothing but igniting and fanning their fears. “I’m glad to be safe and I’m glad I was informed as soon as I was, but I’m scared to death,” said East Canyon resident Anne Meininger. Her voice shaking slightly, she said, “My home is just three years old, and it is hard to think of losing it.” Fellow East Canyon residents Odin Christensen and Phyllis Lucas believe their home is still standing, because they called their landline and

their answering machine picked up. “Our answering machine answered, so we believe the house is still there,” Christensen said. “Or we have an indestructible answering machine,” Lucas laughed, trying to bring a bit of levity to the situation. Christensen and neighbor Keith Paydon said they know the dangers of living in the mountains. They are aware fire danger and fire preparations are part of life with the forest so close, but that knowledge and that preparation makes it no less easy to watch their homes possibly go up in smoke. “You love to live in this place, but we all knew the danger going in,” Paydon said. “But the reality that it could all be gone is strange.” “We know we live in the fire interface, we understand what that means,” he said. “We know it is just stuff and we have worked that through in our heads. But it is still hard to watch this happen to your community. “The most difficult thing is knowing we have a community and some might get burned out and some may not. Who would return? What will the community look like when this is over?” Reach Kimberly Benedict at


JeAnne smiTh reported the Weber fire and was the first person to be evacuated from the canyon. turn for the worse. Residents of roughly 350 other homes were put on alert that they may be next. “I was in town, but my boy-

P.O. Box 123 N. Roger Smith Ave. Cortez, CO 81321 Phone: 970-565-8527 E-mail:

Jeanne Smith, a fifth-generation resident of Weber Canyon, called dispatch to report the fire on Friday afternoon. Smith didn’t have to wait for an evacuation order to know she needed to get herself and her children out of the area. “I knew right away we needed to leave,” she said. “It was so close to the house.” Even Smith’s 10-year-old daughter knew the situation was serious. “She said ‘Mama, the fire’s coming,’” Smith said. “We all knew it was bad.” As of Saturday night, there have been no reports of structures being destroyed. Emergency personnel responded to Smith’s call immediately and she said she knows their quick response saved her home. “They were there right away, and they slurry bombed the area three times,” she said. “Things are OK for now. For now.” Like others, she now has to wait and wonder. And hope for the best. Smith and her family have not yet been allowed to return to their property and she said emotions are running high as she waits to go home. “You just have this desperate need to see it and to know things are OK, not that they are just telling you something to keep you calm,” she said, the

The combined Montezuma Journal (Established 1888), the Cortez Herald (Established 1908), and the Cortez Sentinel (Established 1929). Published Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 123 Roger Smith Ave., Cortez, Colorado, county seat of Montezuma County, Colo

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friend was told to leave at about 5 p.m and they wouldn’t let him go back,” said Weber Canyon resident Vera Stromsted. Like all the other evacuees, the worry, fear, anxiety and emotional exhaustion was evident. Stromsted fought back tears as she described the hollow feeling of wondering what might happen to her home. “I’ve not heard anything,” she said quietly. “I just don’t know what is going on and I’m just worried about my house.”







Partly sunny and warm

A stray t-storm early

A stray p.m. t-storm

A thunderstorm around

Mostly sunny and warm

Mostly sunny

95° Sunrise

58° Moonrise





Sunrise Sunset 5:56 a.m. 8:39 p.m.

Sunrise Sunset 5:56 a.m. 8:39 p.m.

Sunrise Sunset 5:57 a.m. 8:39 p.m.

Sunrise Sunset 5:57 a.m. 8:39 p.m.

Moonrise Moonset 2:11 p.m. 12:50 a.m.

Moonrise Moonset 3:19 p.m. 1:26 a.m.

Moonrise Moonset 4:29 p.m. 2:06 a.m.

Moonrise Moonset 5:39 p.m. 2:52 a.m.

5:55 a.m.

1:04 p.m.



8:39 p.m.

12:17 a.m.

LOCAL ALMANAC Cortez through Sunday


Record Temperatures

High for the past week .......................... 93° Low for the past week ........................... 34° Normal high for the past week .............. 82° Normal low for the past week ............... 47° Normal average temperature .............. 64.7°

Record high this date ................. 94° (2007) Record low this date .................. 34° (1981) Record high for this month ....... 102° (2010) Record low for this month .......... 27° (1937)









Local Readings H


June 18



June 19



June 20



June 21



June 22



June 23 June 24






Total for the past week ....................... 0.00” Month to date ..................................... 0.00” Normal month to date ........................ 0.18” Percentage of monthly normal ............. 0% Year to date ........................................ 2.41”

Grand Junction 99/69


Cedar City





Las Vegas

Colorado Springs 100/65






Farmington 97/62

Kingman 98/72

San Diego 72/61

Flagstaff 82/51

Gallup Holbrook


Albuquerque 97/71


Phoenix 108/89

Roswell 102/70

Tucson Shown is today’s weather. Temperatures are today’s highs and tonight’s lows.


El Paso 101/78

Forecasts and graphics provided by AccuWeather, Inc. ©2012

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Weber Day1 4