Daily Updates

June 19, 2013

Neighbors: Couple killed waited for order to leave

DENVER — Bob and Barbara Schmidt dashed to their home on a dirt road in a heavily wooded area northeast of Colorado Springs as smoke from what would become the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history filled the air.

After quickly grabbing a few items, they spotted their neighbors.

“They were sitting on their porch, watching TV,” said Bob Schmidt, adding that his wife urged their neighbors to immediately flee as smoke rolled in at 4:35 p.m. on June 11. “They said they’d leave when they needed to.”

The couple, Marc and Robin Herklotz, told the Schmidts they hadn’t gotten automated calls from authorities ordering them to evacuate and that, while they were packing and monitoring the approaching blaze on TV, they weren’t panicking.

On Tuesday, authorities announced that the lone casualties of the Black Forest Fire were the Herklotzes, whose bodies were found in their garage on Jicarilla Drive by their car, as if they were trying to flee.

Bob Schmidt said he had received a call June 11 telling him to leave immediately but that the Herklotzes said they did not get such a call. Their homes lay just outside the mandatory evacuation boundary announced on Twitter by the El Paso County at 3:34 p.m. that day. The zone was expanded to include Jicarilla Drive at 5:36 p.m.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said that someone had spoken to the Herklotzes on the phone at about 5 p.m. and heard a popping sound — most likely the fire racing through the thick trees.

Marc Allen Herklotz, 52, and Robin Lauran Herklotz, 50, worked at Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites, and were based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, the Air Force said in a written statement. He entered the Air Force in 1983 but most recently was working as a civilian employee, and his wife was an Air Force contractor.

The couple lived in a three-bedroom house assessed at $281,000, according to property records. Schmidt said the Herklotzes were fixtures in the area, walking their dog every night and coming by to get eggs laid by the chickens Schmidt and his wife kept. A few weeks ago, he said, they worked filling in potholes on the narrow dirt cul de sac where they all lived.

“They loved the forest,” Schmidt said of the couple.

The Black Forest Fire has destroyed more than 500 homes and charred more than 22 square miles. It was 85 percent contained Wednesday and crews are hoping to have it fully contained Thursday. However, expected high winds and hot weather across much of Colorado and the Southwest will work against them. It will also make it easier for new fires to spread in the region.

Maketa said that additional home loss is not anticipated, though the count would likely rise.

“What you’re seeing today is not new damage,” the sheriff said.

Investigators continued searching Tuesday for clues to what started the wildfire. Authorities don’t believe natural causes are to blame but haven’t elaborated on a possible cause.

They concentrated on a 40-foot-by-40-foot area but haven’t said whether they think the fire was started accidentally or on purpose.

In California, officials said it was an unattended campfire near a main route into Yosemite National Park that grew into a blaze that led to the evacuations of 1,500 people. About 400 to 500 remained evacuated Wednesday. Crews have stopped the fire’s forward progress and it was about 40 percent contained.

A wind-whipped wildfire in Arizona grew to nearly 11 square miles by Wednesday morning. Hundreds of homes and people west of Prescott have been evacuated by the Doce Fire, which began shortly before noon Tuesday.

 

1
Text Only
Daily Updates
  • 10 Things to Know for Monday

    Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday:

    April 20, 2014

  • In Other News, April 20

    April 20, 2014

  • Ukraine, Russia trade blame for shootout in east

    Within hours of an Easter morning shootout at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russia insurgents in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement blaming militant Ukrainian nationalists and Russian state television stations aired pictures of supposed proof of their involvement in the attack that left at least three people dead.

    April 20, 2014

  • In West Bank, teen offenders face different fates

    The boys were both 15, with the crackly voices and awkward peach fuzz of adolescence. They lived just a few minutes away from one another in the West Bank. And both were accused of throwing stones at vehicles, one day after the other.

    April 20, 2014

  • Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas

    Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

    April 20, 2014

  • Fracking foes cringe as unions back drilling boom

    After early complaints that out-of-state firms got the most jobs, some local construction trade workers and union members in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia say they’re now benefiting in a big way from the Marcellus and Utica Shale oil and gas boom.

    April 20, 2014

  • In Colorado, a pot holiday tries to go mainstream

    Once the province of activists and stoners, the traditional pot holiday of April 20 has gone mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 20, 2014

  • ‘Capt. America’ tops box office for third week

    Captain America continues to vanquish box office foes, triumphing in ticket sales for the third consecutive week and dominating over megastar Johnny Depp’s new movie.

    April 20, 2014

  • Probe could complicate Rick Perry’s prospects

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry has spent a record 14 years in office vanquishing nearly all who dared confront him: political rivals, moms against mandatory vaccines for sixth graders, a coyote in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    April 20, 2014

  • NASA’s space station Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 19, 2014