DOTSERO — Miguel Salas cut straight to the heart of the matter, because it’s the heart that matters, he said.
Salas and his family, and their neighbors the Villegas family, lost everything in a fire that swept through their mobile homes last week. The valley began rallying to help almost before the flames died down.
“There really are angels,” Miguel said. “We’re doing great. We’re alive, we have work and we have health. My wife and kids are all together. We’re happy. Things happen, but thanks to God we live in a valley where people come together to help.”
No one was injured when fire leveled the two homes last Tuesday. Local firefighters were on the scene in less than seven minutes, from seven miles away, after the first 911 call rolled in. The fire was contained to those two homes.
The Dotsero mobile home park is home to 70 mobile homes. The plume of smoke was visible from Gypsum, five miles away, firefighters said
Firefighters even saved three dogs trapped in a burning building behind one of the homes.
“Everything we lost is just material. We don’t need to think about what happened. We’re thinking about the future,” Miguel said.
Miguel is a carpenter with Custom Refinements and was in Beaver Creek working on a remodel job when he got the word.
The fire started in the Villegas homes’ while a woman and her grandson were outside taking a walk. Southwest winds gusting to about 20 mph pushed the fire to the Salas’ home next door.
Miguel’s wife, Cynthia, was home with their 2-year-old daughter, Michelle. Cynthia was in another part of the house after putting Michelle down for a nap, when the child heard an explosion and their home shook a bit.
Michelle ran to her mother, who looked out the window and saw the fire engulfing their neighbor’s home. She scooped up the child and ran outside as fire was beginning to jump to their home.
Miguel drove as fast as he could from Beaver Creek to Dotsero, arriving just in time to see everything.
Around 2 p.m. he surprised his son when he picked him up from school, telling him what had happened. They drove to the scene where the flashing lights from several fire trucks and emergency vehicles were still visible from hundreds of yards away.
They cried a little but not long. The family was together and alive, Miguel said.
“We are great. Nothing happened to my family,” Miguel said. “What we lost, we can always replace it.”
The community immediately set about doing just that.
“The community has been so generous. In the first half day they had three vehicles donated,” said Samantha Gale said, president of the Gypsum Creek Middle School PTO.
They’ve both gotten so many clothes donations that they can’t take any more.
They need gift cards for essentials, things like toiletries, cooking and cleaning supplies and household items.
The Salas family rented a home in Gypsum. The Villegas family is staying with relatives and still needs a place to live.
They were both offered free storage units for all the donations, Gale said.
“They are taking it one step at a time,” Gale said.
Gypsum Creek Middle School students have raised around $1,000 holding bake sales and wearing hats. If they donate a dollar they get to wear a hat that day in school.
“They come to me with their ideas and I tell them to go with it,” said Michelle Vasquez, GCMS student council sponsor. “They’re all stepping up and organizing ways to make money for these families.”
The GCMS parent teacher organization is spearheading relief efforts, and the local Salvation Army, Vail Valley Cares and the Red Cross are also involved.
“It’s amazing how the whole community steps forward when something like this happens. Not every community is like that,” Tsu Wolin-Brown, director of the Vail Valley chapter of the Salvation Army.
“I’d like to thank everyone so much, and God bless everyone,” Miguel said.