High Park Fire Blaze Triggers Concerns Over Local Donkey Herd

Elected Leaders Signal Red Light Over False Reports About Evacuation

Rick Langenberg

Yes, concerns over huge potential property losses and resident safety ruled the day during the recent High Park fire that scorched areas outside Cripple Creek.


It marked the first major wildfire of the 2022 season and prompted an unprecedented response from community residents, teachers and hundreds of firefighters.


But for many locals in southern Teller,  the big worry amounted to one lingering question: What about the donkeys?


During the peak of the High Park fire, the donkeys were scheduled for an official release into town, with a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator, and a spree of media events and celebratory functions. That event didn’t happen due to fiery flames, igniting from the Four Mile region, and mandatory evacuation orders  for more than 500 residents.


Among the endangered were the herd of donkeys, maintained informally by the Two Mile High Club.


But the donkeys are now completely safe and temporarily hanging out, at their pen area at the local jail museum, according to Curt Sorenson, president of the Two mile High Club. Moreover, during a brief presentation last week before the council, Sorenson lauded the community support the club has received, as part of a huge concern over the donkeys.  The donkeys are rated as one of the town’s leading attractions and top personalities.  “We have had unbelievable support from the community,” said Sorenson. “We had to evacuate the donkeys and get them to their pen at the Cripple Creek Jail Museum.”


Sorenson complimented a score of community residents and emergency responders last week. He also indicated that progress is occurring for the forthcoming Donkey Derby Days event, scheduled in August.


His presentation echoed a conciliatory spirit, as elected leaders thanked the  many people involved in dealing with the fire, including a recently-installed federal team, one of six assembled across the nation.


The fire updates offered gave a dose of optimistic news for a community that had much at stake. But still a section of the fire has created problems, according to a representative of the federal team, and continues to burn due to a lack of accessibility.


The council reacted positively to the report, and praised the communication efforts they have received.  At the same time, they expressed much concern about false television media and social media reports, contending that Cripple Creek is on fire and is seriously at risk and the gaming town must be evacuated.


As a result, the town has incurred some undue expenses. Cripple Creek Finance Director Paul Harris stated that the town is tracking these costs in hope of getting reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He cited at least $13,000 in additional labor costs due to emergency action taken to protect the community from the High Park blaze.


In lieu of the High Park fire, town leaders joined officials in Teller County by declaring s Stage 2  ban. This will probably have more of an impact for Cripple Creek due the restrictions against outdoor smoking.


More Development Near the Wildwood

In  other action, town leaders heard more plans last week for another  major development bid near the Wildwood casino area, off Hwy. 67.


Although no specific details were unveiled, the concept plans call for more multi-family housing, gaming, a sports bar and additional  amenities, according to Ryan Helle, of Baseline Engineering Corp.


On the table last week was a request for a public right-of-way vacation, which  must get addressed prior to any formal plan submittal. It is part of a redevelopment bid for the old Cripple Creek Motel, as part of  American Gaming Subdivision Filing 3.


Elected leaders didn’t get a chance to really obtain details about the project specifics and proposed timeline due to their current regulations. These questions will get addressed at a later date, once a development plan is submitted.


At their meeting last week, the coiujcil passed the first reading of an ordinance okaying the vacation of a 14,500-square-foot street and alley area on Pikes Peak Avenue.