The fear of anyone living in the mountains is fire. While there are many ways to protect your home from the onslaught of a raging wave of fire, sometimes there is nothing you can do.
This past weekend, the residents of Northern Colorado saw such a fire develop and it continues today, 4 days later.
The High Park Fire has gained notoriety and priority due to the explosive size and location next to an area of 250,000 people.
Started by a lightening strike deep in the Roosevelt Forest, it started as a smolder but soon grew to 2 acres, then 200 then 2000. It doubled in size every half day until now it is the 3rd largest fire in Colorado history at 43,333 acres (67 sq miles, 17,500 hectares).
On Sunday, June 9, my friend Jim Davidson and I were climbing Longs Peak (14,256′) in Rocky Mountain National Park when we saw smoke rising from the forest just north of us.
It quickly grew and I called my wife from the summit to learn it had grown from 2 to 5000 acres within a few hours. I took the picture in the upper left and this video to capture that moment.
Today, my city is covered in dense smoke making it difficult to breath and burning eyes – minor compared with what the firefighters are dealing with.
Following the Fire
To follow the progress of the fire, the website for the entire US covering incidents, InciWeb, is excellent.
This is a very detailed map showing the fire area from ESRI.
Fighting the Fire
The response from local officials: fire, police, sheriff, forest service has been outstanding and now has been supplemented with help from federal firefighters aka Hotshots.
As of Tuesday, June 12, there were more than 600 firefighters and almost 20 aircraft deployed on the fire.
This gallery to give you a flavor of what we are seeing here in Colorado over the past few days.
There has been one life lost, a 62 year-old woman who apparently was trapped in her cabin in spite of efforts to evacuate her. Hundreds have been evacuated from their homes and are now living in hotels, with friends or at shelters. Pets and livestock are being kept at shelters.
I cannot imagine hearing a knock on the door and being told to leave immediately – zero time. But hopefully those who live in these areas are prepared with ‘Go Bags’.
These fires are a fact of life out West but also occur in Florida to Michigan to California.
The impact will scar the lands for decades but I am reminded of the Yellowstone fire in 1988. A couple of years later, I saw it for myself and was happy to see pine seedlings taking root and fields of wild flowers. Nature will recover.
For now, society will take longer having lost recreational land, homes and sometimes family.
I am grateful to the fire teams and other professionals for keeping our city safe. Thank you.
Memories are Everything