Man tells shocking story about escape from destructive Wetmore wildfire
CUSTER COUNTY, Colo. — A wildfire that raged out of control in howling winds Tuesday destroyed at least 12 structures including several homes in the area of Wetmore, Colo.
The community is west of Pueblo near the Pueblo and Custer County line.
The fire was zero percent contained heading into Wednesday and powerful winds continued. Firefighters expected to work through the night.
Gary Hoehn was so calm when he arrived at one of the Red Cross shelters, his story was shocking. “We grabbed our dogs, threw them in the car and went to go down the hill and found out there was fire on the road down the hill.”
He and his wife had only one option. Take a dead end road and wait, hoping the fire would pass and then they could use the main road. It didn’t happen that way.
“The fire kind of went over the top of us. We were up next to a steel building there and right along side of me there was a big pile of fence posts and that caught on fire.”
“Heck, it was hot enough the side window on my truck broke,” Hoehn says.
He and his wife were in separate cars.
“For a little while there, I lost my wife, I didn’t know where she was. Eventually she showed up there where I was and that was a big relief.”
A firefighter found them and they created a caravan to get through the thick smoke.
Then he shared this with FOX31 Denver. “As we went past our house we found that it was burned down to the ground.” He says he saw several other homes burned as well.
But there’s good reason he so calmly tells the story that includes the loss of his home.
“60 mile-an-hour wind with embers and everything coming and hitting the windshield of the truck you sit there and look at it and go, ‘okay, we could die here.’ So if you don’t die then you feel pretty good about it and then the rest of it isn’t such a big deal.”
Crews hope for more resources Wednesday including a helicopter that can hold 1,000 gallons of water. However, if the winds stay strong the helicopter will not be able to fly.
Custer County spokesperson Ralph Bellah says the fire is likely human caused though the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.