River wildfire tense for botanical gardens staff

Elizabeth Neubauer was consumed by the thought that a wildfire along the Colorado River might consume the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens.

Neubauer, the operations manager, was working on the yet-to-be completed Colorado Native Plants Garden exhibit late Sunday afternoon when she saw a plume of smoke to the west.

The fire burned 15 acres on an island in the Colorado River west of the Fifth Street bridge and jumped to the north bank of the river. The botanical gardens are just east of the bridge. Flames shot 80 feet in the air. Wind gusts to 60 mph complicated firefighting efforts.

“It was really dodgy there for a minute,” Neubauer said.

She stayed at the gardens until police told her to evacuate, she said.

“When you care about something that much, you really just want to be there,” Neubauer said.

Neubauer said she and everyone at the botanical gardens are extremely grateful for the efforts of firefighters and law enforcement to contain the fire near the botanical gardens.

“Thanks to all the firefighters, police officers and BLM crews who helped put out the fire Sunday night. You saved the Gardens,” the staff said in a statement Wednesday.

The botanical gardens is offering free admission to all local firefighters, law enforcement officers and Bureau of Land Management crews through May.

“Our emergency response people are amazing and I don’t think we ever say thank you enough to them,” Neubauer said.

Law enforcement officers and firefighters can call 245-9030 for more information about free admission.


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