A few days into the Waldo Canyon Fire, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office took a disturbing call. A pilot dropping slurry noticed an encampment deep in the woods, north of Rampart Range Reservoir and four miles west of the Air Force Academy.
The enclave is called Carroll Lakes, a series of cabins and eight fishing lakes owned for about a century primarily by members of the Colorado Springs Fly Casting Club, and 52 people stay there in the summertime.
"It's in El Paso County," Sheriff Terry Maketa recounts with astonishment. "We didn't know they existed, so they weren't included in the [reverse 911 notification for evacuation]."
Although Maketa says the residents told authorities, "We're kind of a secret up here, and we try to keep it that way," the sheriff takes the blame for his department not knowing about the club. "We kept looking at maps, and finally we said, 'Get a lieutenant and a couple of deputies and just go up, and they went up," Maketa says. "We dropped the ball."
By the time they arrived, some vacationers had already left after noticing the smoke-filled skies to the south. Others willingly evacuated.
Undersheriff Paula Presley says the club members thought they had coverage from Donald Wescott Fire Protection District, which serves the north end of Colorado Springs and beyond, but tax rolls show the village doesn't pay taxes to any fire district. Jim Reid, the county's emergency operations manager, is working up a mutual aid agreement so that the community can be served by Teller County firefighters, Presley says.
After the vacationers vacated, Presley says, they wound up being evacuated longer than any other group, due to the fire's proximity.