5:00am

Thu June 28, 2012
Colorado Wildfires

A Day in the Life of a Wildfire Evacuee

While thousands remain evacuated near Colorado Springs due to the Waldo Canyon Fire, High Park evacuees got some good news yesterday. Barring any significant changes, most will be allowed back home in the next 24 hours.

It’s the end of a long chapter for some, but it marks the beginning of an even longer one for those who know they lost their homes.

Sharon and Mike Guli have been riding an emotional rollercoaster for almost three weeks since they were evacuated from their Paradise Park home.

After years of running a leather clothing business and historic western programs out of a studio next to their home, a lightening strike forced them to evacuate on June 9.

They’ve been out of their home ever since, which Sharon says was destroyed by the High Park Fire. An aerial snapshot shows little more than a burnt foundation. But just yards away, the studio they run their business out of looks untouched.

Since the fire took their home, they’ve been putting 1,000 miles a week on their car. They go to evacuee meetings in Loveland, and to Fort Collins to meet with insurance agents and their bank.

“We’re so busy it’s like 8 am to 10 at night,” says Mike.

Sharon adds “We haven’t stopped. I never thought being evacuated would be such a full time job,” she says.

The Guli’s have so many documents they had to buy a file to keep it all straight. They’re constantly going to Wal-Mart to pick up little things like razors and skin products left behind. And then there’s laundry. Fortunately, they found a volunteer-run service for High Park Fire evacuees.

They say there’s been an outpouring of support from friends and family each day. So much so that sometimes it’s been hard to keep up with all the voicemails and emails. What stands out for Sharon are the random acts of kindness. Like the waiter who buys them a round of drinks, or the mystery diner who quietly pays their restaurant tab and leaves.

“Someone sent us $10 in an envelope. We don’t even know where it came from. There was no note,” she says. “Someone else sent us a gift card to Target.”

The High Park Fire also brought a small media spotlight onto the Gulis, or at least the animals living on their property. During the quickly evolving evacuations on June 9, the Guli’s contacted their friend and owner of 2 donkeys and 4 horses, Greg Van Hare, to evacuate the animals. But Van Hare couldn’t get there in time and the animals were stuck.

“The horses must have turned their butts to the firestorm because their tails were singed. But the donkeys must have faced the danger because the inside of their ears and their noses were singed,” says Sharon. “All the horses and the donkeys from our property have survived and are in good health. So that was a happy ending.”

If everything goes their way, the Guli’s will be allowed back on their property by the end of the week. Like the historic western lifestyle they’ve built their careers on, Sharon’s expectation of that visit has healthy dose of pioneer mentality.

“We’re excited to go and I’m dreading to see what it looks like at the same time,” she says. “But we’ll go home and deal with it.”

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