COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Wednesday, June 27:
The Waldo Canyon wildfire forced thousands of people away from their homes and into Red Cross shelters when ferocious winds drove the blaze into the western suburbs of Colorado Springs on Tuesday night.
Among those who scrambled for safety was Simone Covey, a 26-year-old single mother of three. Homeless, Covey had been looking after her sister's apartment near the spectacular Garden of the Gods park when she was told to leave Tuesday evening.
"The sky was red, the wind was blowing really fast, and there were embers falling from the sky," Covey said at a Red Cross shelter inside the basketball gymnasium of Cheyenne Mountain High School. "I didn't really have time to think about it. I was just trying to keep my kids calm."
Family in tow, Covey arrived at the shelter and pushed several military-style cots together to keep her children close. They ate cheeseburgers Tuesday night; Wednesday's lunch consisted of gyros served in Styrofoam containers.
Donated children's books, teddy bears and other stuffed toys were scattered across blankets that bore the Red Cross emblem. Covey's children, ages 3, 5 and 6, splashed around in kiddie pools set up outside the shelter to beat the scorching heat. Inside, a bank of fans did little to keep the gym cool.
And with nowhere to go, Covey planned on spending another night.
"It's definitely different. It's loud, but other than that, it's not that bad," Covey said.
She said she hoped to get a motel room soon — but confided that "finances are kind of tight right now."
Red Cross spokeswoman Catherine Barde said 159 people stayed at the Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter Tuesday night, and 148 people were at three other shelters.