When I started this blog three years ago, I never intended that it serve as a news outlet, but rather an outlet for funny and interesting stories about living in the mountains of Colorado. Up until last Saturday, it served that purpose admirably, with a few people occasionally finding their way here because of key words through a Google search.
Last Saturday, our neighborhood was struck with a terrible wildfire that put our lives, our neighbor’s lives and our homes at terrible risk. Some have already suffered great losses as their homes have literally been turned to ashes, and they have contacted me through this blog. Though I usually try to blog regularly, at least every other day, I found myself too shocked and emotionally distraught to write anything the first couple of days as I worried about our home and other’s homes.
I never considered that as people have been searching the Internet desperate to find news and updates on the fire and friends and family, they might happen upon this blog. But through the spikes in hits and comments I have received, I guess that is the case.
Five homes have been lost due to this catastrophe. My hearts break for them, because I know it just as easily have been me. The fire perimeter got within 3/4 mile of our log cabin along the ridge, and while things are looking better, we are not out of the woods yet (sorry for the pun).
We are very lucky that our neighbor is one of the fire fighters, and his wife has texted us frequent updates. At this time, 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12, things look greatly encouraging. The fire is at 566 acres, and there has been very little spread in the last 24 hours. There are around 470 personnel on the fire working incredibly hard to insure the protection of homes in the area. To say I am so grateful doesn’t even cover it. I wish I could give each and every firefighter a hug to thank them.
The last meeting we attended stated they expected to have 25% containment by this evening, mostly on the western edge of the fire. The billowing smoke that had covered the sky the first 2-3 days is mostly gone, instead replaced by a wisp of smoke here or there where hot spots are still burning. If the winds don’t kick up and they continue to make progress, I am optimistic this fire will be contained within a matter of days. Still, it is stunning to see the terrible blackened hillsides left behind as a scar on the landscape.
They are also allowing us residents to come in tomorrow morning for an hour or two to grab extra clothes, and empty our refrigerators. One of the perils of a wildfire is the power lines are cut and then power poles are incinerated — they estimate at least 50 poles have been burnt down and will need replacing. So the first order of business is emptying the refrigerator of rotting food, so that the refrigerator can be used after we can return to our homes for good.
Progress has been so good, that I’ve allowed hope to enter my brain, after going through every kind of emotion the last three days. There were times on Sunday when the fire blew up and doubled in size, that I thought for sure our house was gone, and started to cry. Then there have been the moments of cautious optimism when I would receive a text confirming our house was still there. It is the worst kind of anxiety and stress imaginable to go through from the instant you are scrambling to evacuate your house to the endless waiting to hear whether your house made it or not.
I know there are many who wonder or even question why we would choose to live in a place where we subject ourselves to this kind of danger and risk. I’ve often wondered if our house burned down, whether we would choose to rebuild or relocate to a “safer” location. The past three days have surprised me with their answers.
Though I am grateful to have had wonderful friends who offered and took us in under these circumstances, spending time in the cities below has also answered my question unequivocally. I am a mountain person at heart. One of the things that has so touched me is how all of us in our small Nederland community have reached out to each other to help, to reassure, to give a hug, to provide a ride somewhere, to provide support in whatever way possible. I miss our cabin and the dirt roads leading through the Aspen trees, and walking along the burbling North Boulder Creek. Try though I meet, I can’t imagine myself living in the suburbs, with my 2-car garage. It’s just not who I am.
Do despite this terrible disaster and the pain it has wrought on so many, I have my answer. I would do it all over again.