Colorado Fire Consumes 'Taste Of The Old West'

The Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado has claimed a long-time beloved attraction: the Flying W Ranch. The ranch burned to the ground Tuesday. It billed itself as "a taste of the Old West," offering chuck wagon suppers and Western-style entertainment. Host Melissa Block talks with assistant general manager Aaron Winter about the damage and whether it will be rebuilt.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Among the losses from the Colorado wildfire is the Flying W Ranch, a tourist destination for the last 60 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FLYING W WRANGLERS: (singing) Ropes and saddles, steers and steaks, cowboys, guitars, fiddle and bass, little wranglers love this place. Flying W Ranch.

BLOCK: The Flying W Ranch burned to the ground yesterday. It billed itself as a taste of the Old West - a replica Western town with historic memorabilia and buildings, offering chuckwagon suppers and Western-style entertainment. Aaron Winter has worked at the Flying W for 15 years. He is the assistant general manager, and he joins me from Colorado Springs. Aaron Winter, welcome to the program. Sorry to hear about what happened.

AARON WINTER: It's good to be on your program. And it is absolutely devastating what has happened.

BLOCK: And we should clarify, nobody was hurt, I think, but the Flying W itself is entirely gone?

WINTER: That is correct. The Flying W has officially, you know, burned to the ground.

BLOCK: And when did you realize that that was going to happen, the fire was going to completely overtake your place?

WINTER: You know, honestly, when the fire - when we actually first saw the first tunnel go up in the air on Saturday, we were like, OK, you know, it's several, you know, miles away from us. There's no way it'll go up this one ridge, come down another, go up another, come down another to even get to us. And we were even in there all the way up until the fire actually came over the mountain range and started heading down at us at about 60 miles per hour.

BLOCK: Wow. What did it look like?

WINTER: You know, it was just absolutely the most frightening sight I think I've ever seen in my entire life. It was just jumping from tree to tree, making us lay down the mountainside straight towards the ranch. We had some firefighters that were actually out helping to remove a lot of the trees and the brush from around our buildings. They got straight into a single-file line and marched their way out of the ranch, and we knew it was time. And we jumped in our cars and we took off.

BLOCK: The Flying W, I've read, was started back in 1953 by the Wolfe family and the slogan of the Old West lives on in this name. Were there all sorts of stuff there, historic memorabilia, things like that that you lost?

WINTER: Oh, there was a tremendous amount. Russ Wolfe and his wife Marian actually started the ranch, and Russ had actually built our buildings over time in order to give, you know, visitors to the ranch an opportunity to do something before we have dinner and the show. Originally back in 1953, they only had 12 guests per night, and that actually expanded to 1,200 paying guests per night.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Winter, do you think that the Flying W will be rebuilt?

WINTER: You know, that's our hope. Right now, we're in the process of dealing with our insurance companies. Right now, we really want to stress that the Flying W can be rebuilt. What we feel, you know, strongly about is the devastation that it's caused to the neighbors that live around us in Mountain Shadows, and our hearts go out to them. It's just going to take time to rebuild this entire community, as well as the Flying W.

BLOCK: Well, Aaron Winter, thanks so much for talking to us. Best of luck.

WINTER: Not a problem at all. Thank you so much.

BLOCK: That's Aaron Winter, assistant general manager at the Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs, which burned to the ground yesterday in the wildfire there.

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