Cold Springs Wildfire as seen from Nederland

Another fire engine blasted through the Nederland traffic circle, sirens blaring, lights flashing.  That was the second one in a matter of minutes.  Still, in my mind, I thought there must have a been car or motorcycle accident on Peak to Peak highway.  Those were so common during summertime with all the tourists on the road.

Then Bryon called me on my cell phone.  That in itself was a rarity — he never called me at work.

“I’m in Boulder and I see smoke up the canyon.”

My heart sunk.  That’s why there had been fire engines zooming through town.  I called Nederland fire department to ask about the smoke and fire.

“There’s a fire off Cold Springs Road.”

Oh my God!  Cold Springs is just down the road from our home.  I sprang into action, telling my staff member, John, “I have to go home right now, there’s a fire in our neighborhood.”

“Leslie, I’ll be fine, do what you need to do.”  John, ever the exemplary employee is calm and collected.  Me, not so much.

Ever since we moved to Nederland six years ago, we’ve known the risks of wildfire in the area.  Just six weeks after we moved here, the biggest wildfire in Boulder County’s history, Fourmile Canyon Fire, destroyed over 160 homes.

But we’d taken dramatic steps with both our property and home, as well as our neighborhood to work diligently on fire mitigation.  Still, in that instant, none of it seemed to matter.

I took off towards home.  It felt like everyone on the road was a tourist and driving way too slow. In my impatience, I honked my horn to get them to either pull over or move faster.

I drove up Hurricane Hill, turning onto Ridge Road at breakneck speed.  Another person was driving along at a modest speed, and I finally passed them, desperate to get home.  As I went through the intersection with Cold Springs Road and Ridge Road, I could sense the desperation of others, as cars went tearing down Cold Springs Road leaving a plume of desk behind them.

Finally making it home, I emptied the miscellaneous bin I had in my car and threw it in the living room.  First things first.  Grab the dogs and load them into the car with their leashes.  Then get cat carrier and round up cats.  Grab laptop computers.  What else?

Go to back bedroom and grab our “fire boxes.” The boxes we’ve packed with our personal photos and irreplaceable mementos.  They’re in the car.  I remembered from our evacuation six years ago, I had forgotten pet food and cat litter.  I quickly empty the large bag of dog food into a bin and grab it as well as the cat food bin.  Two litter boxes.

I glance out the window — Bryon is here — they must not have blocked the Summer Road yet.  Thank God he is here.  More room to put things.  He packs up the last cat.  We grab some clothes and throw them in our suitcase, sweeping toiletries from the bathroom into a large bag.

“What about important documents?”  Yes, let’s get the stuff from the safe as well as our insurance papers.  In a last ditch effort to take as many clothes with us, we grab our laundry hamper, filling it with clothes and throw it in the back of his SUV.

The light is eerily orange with a weird glow to it.  The acrid smell of smoke is in the air, burning my nostrils.  We take one more pass through the house, glancing at each room to see if there is something  we could grab.  We take a few pictures off the wall, Bryon moves the propane tanks away and rakes some needles from the foundation and we leave.  It’s a strange feeling not knowing if that is the last time we will ever see our house standing.

We head towards the Summer Road, joined by a caravan of vehicles careening down the road.  A bright colored yellow kayak is lodged in the ditch alongside the road, witness to the fact that it was important to someone, but also shows the urgency of which they were driving that their kayak fell off and they didn’t even stop to get it.

This is the beginning of a very stressful and anxious week.