The Colorado Black Forest Fire. I find it inappropriate to write another post about what I’ve been cooking in the safety and routine of my own kitchen, without addressing this horrific event that has taken place in our community.
This has been a very emotional week for all of us in Colorado. Last Tuesday we had 5% humidity, 50-60 mph winds, and temperatures at 100 degrees. Our local news started warning us about an early fire season.
Here in Highlands Ranch we have some incredible vistas that provide us some impressive Front Range views. Pikes Peak, 60 miles to the South, Long’s Peak, about the same distance to the North and little did I know, the Black Forest area about 40 miles to the Southeast. While making the rounds to visit some of my clients, I noticed a spiral of smoke and said to myself “uh-oh, we’ve got a fire”.
About 20 minutes later that spiral had grown to a concerning plume and within an hour it was obvious we had a major forest fire. The white smoke was now mingled with billowing clouds of dark gray smoke which only meant one thing. Homes were burning.
When I arrived home, Bob had on the local news and we sat glued to our television as a local news helicopter filmed live coverage of home after home, after home burning to the ground. It was absolutely heartbreaking and horrifying to watch this happening live. We watched as the fire sped towards one home, licked up the side of the house and to the deck. Within ten minutes that house was completely engulfed in flames and was starting to collapse.
The fire had spread so quickly that some people who were at work couldn’t get home fast enough to grab whatever they could. Some people who were at home only had minutes to grab pets and flee. In their rush some spray painted phone numbers on horses and set them free in hopes they could run to escape the fast moving inferno.
By Wednesday the fire was still out of control, the winds had switched to blowing to the northwest bringing the heavy cloud of smoke our direction. Visibility in Highlands Ranch and Denver was down to almost 1/2 mile. Some folks reported falling ash. The fire continued to move fast and destroy acres and acres of the Black Forest Subdivision.
The number of homes destroyed were rising by the minute, along with additional evacuations. News crews were interviewing evacuees standing along side a country road, watching the fire, who couldn’t get back in to rescue pets, they had no idea if their homes were still standing.
Then came the news that no one wanted to hear. Two people dead. They were in their garage, were found near their car, doors open as if they were loading up to evacuate.
I know you’ve seen snippets of this on national news, but we lived this event 24/7. Our local television was completely preempted with constant coverage and minute to minute updates of progress, reports, interviews, news conferences and health alerts. Anyone you came across talked about the fire, everyone was upset. We talked about the loss of wildlife. We gathered in groups in our office building lobbies talking about friends we know who have had to evacuate. Even now we have tears in our eyes as we talk about a community, our neighbors, who are experiencing such loss. Unimaginable loss.
Friday the El Paso County Sheriff was almost giddy during a news conference announcing that they had a leg up on the fire. It appears that this one is under control. Latest report, 480 homes destroyed.
This weekend a cold front has arrived in Colorado, temperatures are mild, the winds are gone. The steady stream of Blackhawk helicopters and the airplanes carrying fire retardant are no longer flying over our house on their way to fight the fire.
My friend Eileen has posted on Facebook that her and Kat are going to be allowed back in to their home today. They live on the far north side of the burn area. I’m so anxious to hear about their home and their beloved pets. I’ve heard nothing about my friend Bill who lives more in the center of the Black Forest fire area and sent a mass email on Thursday morning informing us that he, and his family, were just ordered to evacuate. I’m worried. In this case no news may be bad news.
For now this one seems to be under control. The Royal Gorge Fire is under control. The Rocky Mountain National Park fire is reported to be under control. Our heart breaks for the loss of human lives, the loss of homes, the loss of family pets, livestock and wildlife. We can only hope we’ve seen the end of the 2013 Colorado Wildfire Season.
All photos are from Channel 7 News, Denver. Photo of houses in foreground taken by International Business News.