EVERGREEN, Colo. (CBS4) – Authorities allowed 1,000 or more people known to be evacuated because of the Elephant Butte Fire to return to their homes Tuesday evening. The fire sparked Monday in Evergreen.
The lifted evacuations followed a heavy downpour that helped the efforts of firefighters who spent a second day attacking flames on the steep slopes south of Upper Bear Creek Road.
“They really got on it and they got on it fast too,” said longtime Evergreen resident Jim Denbow, 85.
Denbow and his 84-year-old wife, Alice, sat in their car waiting to go home. They evacuated Monday knowing if the fire moved toward their home, there wasn’t much chance.
“If that fire comes over the hill, it’ll be in our house,” said Alice.
Many people were surprised at the things they actually grabbed and got out. Dale Gilbert grabbed some money and some weapons. He was smiling, but ready for a shower and to go home. He spent the night in the parking lot of the Elk Meadow and Bergen Peak Open Space Park in his truck.
“It was nice. It was OK. I’m a little sore this morning,” he said.
The first shower came from the skies. Rain poured down as the evening reached Evergreen.
“We had a good soaking rain,” said Lizz Lincoln. She and her family went home. The Lincolns have had a group of homes near where the fire hit for more than 100 years. Some feared fire had taken them, but not a single structure was lost according to Evergreen Fire Rescue.
The fire is still considered only 40% contained as of Tuesday night because even with the rain, it may still burn in the rocky face of Elephant Butte, and if the weather does not cooperate tomorrow, it could flare up.
Spokesperson Stacee Martin said they planned a flyover at about 10 a.m. Wednesday to get a good look. She said they would begin to look for a cause.
It appears the fire started in a remote area, but there are few clues other than there are no power lines in the area.
Fire may have helped in the long run said Lizz Lincoln.
“There’s a lot of dead wood up there that’s now been burned, and we were blessed to have that burn in sync with the rain.”
They have done a lot of mitigation on their property, but much of the land around them is not.
“One of these days it’s really going to happen around Evergreen,” said Jim Denbow. “I hope not, but you never know.”