Shad Dohl watches as smoke rises from the Black Forest Fire. Chris Schneider, Getty Images
By Michael Auslen, Stephanie Solis and Melanie Eversley, USA TODAY
As a fierce, wind-fed wildfire that has already killed two people
continued to barrel through the area of Black Forest, Colo., evacuees
tried to cope with the tragedy.
The home that Deanna Ronco of
Black Forest and her family lived in for 18 years is one of 360 that
have been consumed by the flames.
On Tuesday afternoon,
Ronco started to pack up belongings of her five children when she got a
call from emergency responders that the family needed to leave right
away. She didn't bother packing anything sentimental because she thought
they would be back. She remembers the odd sight of smoke blowing in
front of the sun and the sky turning a red hue.
The family stayed with friends two nights before hearing from a friend who is a volunteer firefighter that her home was gone.
kind of been a roller coaster since then, trying to get my kids taken
care of so we can take care of logistics," said Ronco, 40. "The sad part
is it's not even over, and we're not even the only ones that have been
That night, she and her husband left their
children with friends and got a hotel room for the night so they could
grieve for their home. "It's a very surreal feeling," she said.
O'Neill, a resident of Black Forest, did not lose her home but said
that she and her family were contending with the rootless feeling of not
being able to stay in familiar surroundings.
The family has
several dogs, so a motel was not an option. For a time after evacuating,
they just hung out in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store trying
to decide what to do. Ultimately, the family wound up at a friend's
house and put the dogs in a kennel that was boarding evacuees' pets for
"The upheaval in your life just makes you tired," O'Neill
said in an interview via Facebook Messenger. "I feel incredibly lucky
that my house is still standing. I am sad that I am separated from my
dogs. I am stressed out that I am having to depend on other people to
take care of them and that I am imposing on a friend to house me."
As residents dealt with loss and displacement, volunteers and agencies stepped up to help them.
Homes in Colorado Springs is accepting donations and plans to deliver
them to a nearby drop-off on Monday, CFO Dave Mersman said.
said Colorado Springs has dealt with a lot between the fires in Waldo
Canyon in June 2012 and, now, Black Forest, but the community pulls
together to recover.
"Colorado Springs is a very, very
tight-knit community, and we support each other," he said. "I happened
to live in the area that was evacuated last year and was affected, and
boy the outreach by the community, my neighbors and friends was just
Overnight, at least 818 people took shelter
from the Black Forest Royal George fires in the three places the Pikes
Peak Red Cross set up Wednesday night, spokeswoman Patricia Billinger
Billinger said some residents realized too late that they were susceptible to the wildfire and should have prepared.
never think it's going to happen to us," she said. "One woman I spoke
to said, 'I should know better. We had Waldo Canyon last year. I
should've known to get prepared.' But when they came knocking on her
door to evacuate, she really just managed to get her dog and her ID, and
she didn't even grab her purse. We never think it's going to happen to