Election Section

Dozens return to scorched homes

The Associated Press
Wednesday June 05, 2002

CANON CITY, Colo. – Dozens of families headed back into the charred foothills Tuesday to search for remnants of their lives after a 4,400-acre wildfire destroyed more than 80 homes. 

Fire officials began allowing the residents into the area after cooler weather and scattered rain helped slow the fire. 

“They need to get back home. They need to have closure,” Fremont County Sheriff Ivan Middlemiss said. 

He warned the residents to prepare themselves emotionally, telling them: “This is not going to be the same area in your lifetime or my lifetime as when you left Sunday.” 

Some homeowners braced for the worst. 

“In bed last night, I was laying there thinking maybe it’s still there,” said Jan Freeman, who left her wedding ring behind in her haste to evacuate after the fire broke out Sunday. 

She and her husband, Cecil Freeman, were told by acquaintances that their two-story home with a view of Pikes Peak and grazing elk was gone, along with at least 82 others. They said they plan to rebuild. 

Hundreds of families were evacuated when the fire broke out in dry timber and brush west about 110 miles southwest of Denver. Besides the homes, the blaze destroyed a general store and several other structures. Royal Gorge Park closed temporarily but reopened Tuesday.