People helping people

North-West Fire Protection District fire fighter Steve Eytell (left) arranged a snowcat to bring and student Gabel Gallegos home after white-out conditions on U.S. Highway 285. (Photo by Laurel Dumas)

Monday, Feb. 24, Park County experienced yet another day of extreme winds. Strong winds are not uncommon up here, but you never know exactly what will be the result of these winds or how it will impact the community.

It all just depends. Will the highways close? Will people be able to get to work or get home from work? Will the school busses be able to pick up or deliver students to their homes? Will it happen on a holiday weekend when large numbers of travelers are on the highways?

These are all situations most Park County locals have experienced before. We are not surprised by any of these scenarios, and, for the most part, locals are somewhat prepared for any of them. Still yet, when the winds start to blow, sometimes we are caught off guard, and still yet, sometimes we simply cannot battle this force of nature.

This is when we call on our neighbors and the good people of the county to problem solve and come to the rescue.

On Monday, the winds gusted and blew the newly fallen snow to create mammoth drifts and whiteout conditions. The winds started that morning, but it was too late to cancel busses or delay the start of school.

Students were on campus in Fairplay, but as the day wore on, school staff wondered about the conditions that would exist by the end of the day.

Sure enough, by the afternoon, U.S. Highway 285 was shut down from Fairplay to Kenosha Pass and wind restrictions would not allow busses to run in the direction of Antero Junction.

A jackknifed semi-truck shut down Colorado Highway 9 on Hoosier Pass. So once again, the town of Fairplay, sitting in the crux of these highways, was isolated from the rest of the world.

This is when Park County School District RE-2 Superintendent, Cindy Bear realized the school could be faced with sheltering students who could not get home or whose parents could not get to the school.

Bear became aware of one family in particular who had sent their son, with special needs, to school that day and now had no way to get him home.

Living in between Como and Jefferson, they were stuck there, and he was stuck at school. Even if the highway were to open later in the evening, they were unable to get to the highway with a vehicle.

This might not be a serious situation for some kids but for this one, it was. Knowing he would not be able to handle being away from his family, they were desperate to get to him.

Bear called upon her friend, Gene Stanley, the Park County emergency manager, to ask about the county’s track vehicle. Stanley realized the special vehicle was housed at the North-west Fire Station and called upon our friends there.

The folks at North-west Fire quickly put together a rescue operation and arrived at the school in the track vehicle. They picked up the student and delivered him to his parents who hiked to the highway from their home to get their son.

This is what friends do for each other. This is why living in this community with people like this is a privilege.

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