A woman and her dog died after flames engulfed their mobile home in a wind-fueled fire that destroyed eight units in two mobile home parks, officials said Friday.
The woman’s death was confirmed by El Paso County Coroner Dr. Leon Kelly. He said she had been tentatively identified but declined to provide a name or further details until the ID is confirmed.
Steve Kaye, a resident who fled the fire, said he heard a woman scream “Help me! Help me!” and quickly ran outside to see her door engulfed in flames on Thursday afternoon. He said he tried to help her escape, but the fire grew too quickly and soon her entire home became swallowed by the fire, he said. Authorities haven’t confirmed that the woman he saw trapped was the person who died.
The fire destroyed homes in Skylark Mobile Home Park and in the neighboring Falcon Mobile Home Park, both on Cascade Avenue. It’s unclear which park the woman who died lived in. Authorities previously said all eight homes were at the Skylark.
Several pets were killed in the fire, including a dog belonging to the woman who died, fire officials confirmed.
The cause of the fire — one of three across the city Thursday that underscored high fire danger in the region —was ruled accidental after investigators were unable to rule out that its ignition was caused by the improper disposal of “smoking materials,” the fire department said Friday.
The separate fires briefly prompted a shelter-in-place order and canceled flights at the Colorado Springs Airport and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from their homes. At the mobile home parks, high winds and explosions from propane tanks spread the flames to nearby units, a fire department spokesman said.
Firefighters dug through the piles of rubble Friday morning as an excavator tore down the frame of a mobile home. Metal siding peeled from the mobile home next door, revealing its charred interior.
Several trees stood between the rubble, their bark peeled and singed from the flames. The area remained cordoned off by yellow police tape.
Bailey McCreary, 21, said she heard what sounded like rain on her roof and crashing waves when she stepped outside Thursday and felt the heat of the flames on her body and a thick smell of propane.
“It wasn’t waves. It was giant, huge flames,” McCreary said
She quickly jumped in her car and drove past a trailer engulfed in fire.
“I drove as fast as I could. I didn’t want to stop in case something else exploded,” she said.
A day after the fire, she walked through the rubble-strewn park with tears in her eyes.
“We’re living in a trailer park, we’re poor,” she said, adding that many who live there don’t have insurance.
Debbie Wilson, 56, and her roommate returned to find their home severely damaged with their four cats dead inside. They hoped to collect the bodies of Gizmo, Penelope, Minnie and Praline and bring them to the vet to be cremated.
They planned to salvage important documents and IDs they could find in their home, which they moved into in August. Wilson’s roommate, who declined to provide his name, described their home as a “charred mess open to the sky.”
Wilson, who was waiting for her home health care nurse to arrive Thursday, said police knocked on her door to get her out. She heard a succession of “little booms” mixed with explosions as flames scorched a nearby home.
“It was the first time in a long time that I could say sirens were a welcome sound,” Wilson said.
The other fires in Colorado Springs highlighted how human activity that may be harmless under more forgiving conditions can spark fires that quickly spread out of control amid the state’s hot, dry, windy weather.
On the city’s northeast side, the Akerman fire, which endangered 500 homes and led to the evacuations of roughly 1,000 people in the Stetson Hills neighborhood on Thursday, was started by smoldering ashes from a resident’s fire pit, a Colorado Springs police spokeswoman said. Joshua Allen was cited with “firing woods or prairie,” for unknowingly and without recklessness setting grounds on fire. It is a class 6 felony.
The Alturas fire that briefly closed the Colorado Springs Airport was apparently sparked by a county sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car after the deputy drove into a field and accidentally set grass ablaze, authorities said. Crews contained the fire, which grew to 180 acres, about 4:30 p.m. Friday, according to the sheriff’s office.
Another fire that ignited west of Cripple Creek in Teller County Thursday had grown to about 846 acres by Friday evening, the Teller County Sheriff’s Office said. The cause of the High Park fire, which started on private property before moving onto Bureau of Land Management land, remains unknown.
Colorado Springs and much of the Front Range were under a red flag warning Friday, with tinder-dry conditions and winds up to 40 mph bringing critical fire danger to the state’s northeastern quarter, the National Weather Service in Boulder warned on Twitter.