CONIFER, Colo. — A Conifer-area family barely escaped with their lives as the Lower North Fork Fire erupted Monday afternoon. And they captured their escape on cell phone video.
“Daddy!’ cries little Rhoanabella Gulick on video shot by Caleb Gulick, 13, as the family speeds through a raging inferno in two cars: one driven by their father, Doug Gulick, and the other, Rhoanabella’s mother Kim Olson.
“We’ll make it. We’ll be fine,” Doug says.
“Where’s mom? What she stopping for?” cries Rhoanabella. Her mother had stopped for a moment because she thought the road was blocked.
But they continued on, surrounded by smoke and flying embers until finally, clearer skies emerged.
“We’re out, we’re out,” exclaims Doug.
“(The sky) went from perfect daylight to perfect darkness…just driving through those trees,” Doug told FOX31 Denver on Tuesday. “It was all over in a minute, but it seemed like forever to get to that. And all of a sudden we saw sunlight, and knew we were going to be okay.”
The family says they had very little time to get out of their home on Kuehster Road when they received a mandatory evacuation call at 5 p.m.
“I’m shocked we didn’t get that warning at all until 5 (p.m.) and 15 minutes later, our road was barely impassable,” says Doug.
This, even though they had called 911 several times three hours earlier to report the smell of smoke.
“The third time I called I got to dispatch again. The woman was very rude,” says Olson. “She’s really rude and she said there’s nothing going on. You’ve got to stop calling.”
The family wonders if the hurried evacuation contributed to the deaths of their neighbors Sam Lucas, 77, and his wife Linda, 76, who lived just 150-yards off Kuehster Rd.
“(They were a) great couple…very sad,” says Kim. “They were very sweet. We got to know them from holiday parties.”
“Everyone knows (Linda) as the lady who looks like Betty White. She had chickens and was always trying to keep the hawks from her chickens,” says Doug.