Rist Canyon's Chief Gann provides update on Buckhorn evacuations

Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Gann had to be one of the busiest people on the planet in the days following the floods. Even so, he took a few minutes to share the latest information available on Sept. 18.

The good news is that significant progress has been made on the upper Buckhorn Road and it is now accessible for livestock and people to evacuate. That does not mean it’s open for business as usual. Work by RCVFD and rescue resources pushed their way up Pingree and over Pennock Pass on Sept. 17, identified two problem areas between the Poudre River and the Buckhorn Ranger Station, and found an additional access into Crystal Mountain.

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By Sept. 18, the road had been improved by placing logs across a “mud bog” near Monument Gulch and working on another soft spot on the Pennock Pass Road. Pingree and Pennock roads are now improved so that they can be used as an evacuation route for Buckhorn and Crystal Mountain residents.

Gann emphasizes the fact that repairs are temporary and will not be long-lasting. When the snow flies, the road will not be plowed or maintained and should not be considered a viable winter route. He strongly encourages evacuation for everyone in this area.

Emergency supplies intended to enable people to survive in place until they are evacuated are arriving from various agencies by air, foot, ATV and jeep. They consist of water, batteries and MREs. Once evacuation becomes possible, these supplies will no longer be available.

Those who choose to remain in a cut-off area should not expect continuing supply drops as resources (air-drops) will disappear, local resources will not be able to reach them and communications may be difficult.

Residents of the Upper Buckhorn, Crystal Mountain, Mid Buckhorn and Lower Buckhorn are advised to evacuate. Those who choose to remain in the Upper Buckhorn and at Crystal Mountain will be isolated for the winter. There are no ground options for evacuation in the mid-Buckhorn area as of Sept. 18. Aircraft is their only option. Those in Lower Buckhorn need to evacuate but may have some options. If the crossing at Wildsong Road can be repaired, there will be some access but it is cross-country and in winter the road will not be maintained. Evacuation is advised, especially for those with medical conditions.

Timberline Church is serving as the evacuation center for Fort Collins. Food, clothing and short-term housing is available immediately. Longer- term housing is still being addressed. Livestock are being held at The Ranch off Interstate 25 in Loveland.

Gann warns that those who elect to remain in a remote, isolated area need to consider the consequences. In a few weeks, there will be no helicopters or specialized search and rescue teams available for evacuation.

The wise move is to get out while it is possible. “Don’t decide to try it for a month or two and see how it goes,” Gann said.

The chief says he is astounded by the versatility, resiliency, strength and self-sufficiency of the people in the RCVFD area. He praises their ability to step up and deal with serious situations and feels blessed to be able to serve the people of this area.