Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire

Have you ever been asked what you would take if you had to evacuate your home in the event of a fire? Well, I recently got to find out first hand.

It all started on Saturday, June 23rd, 2012. I decided to go for a bike ride on the hottest day (100 degrees) ever on June 23rd. On the way home I saw a plume of smoke coming from the hills above our house.

"Oh, crap.." I thought. I never imagined that in 3 short days, that fire would be raging down the hill towards my neighborhood at a ridiculous and unbelievable speed.

The days after it started we all watched as the firefighters worked hard to save Cedar Heights above Manitou Springs and waited patiently for the air support to arrive. Our neighbors to the south were all evacuated and were getting antsy to get back home. Then Tuesday afternoon happened. I was at work and Cindy called to tell me that we were being pre-evacuated. I decided to leave early and on my drive home I took these pictures:

It was still a ridge over from ours and would have to cross Queens Canyon to get to us. I got a text from Cindy asking if she should come home. I told her no, there was plenty of time.... I got home and started watching the press conference to get more info when my neighbor knocked on my door. "You have to see this", she said. I walked out on my front porch and here is what greeted me:

I texted Cindy "come home now" and started packing the car. Then the wind that brought us this little gift hit our neighborhood at around 60 mph, enveloping us in smoke. Visibility went to about a block and cars were whizzing by the house in a big hurry to get home while a steady stream of cars started forming a line in the other direction to get out of the!

While all of this was going on, I continued to pack the car and take the occasional picture. This was the beginning of the end for the Flying W Ranch:

The heat coming off the fire combined with the high wind and 100 degree weather was unbelievable and was amazing to experience first-hand. I had to keep stopping to drink water while running around the house packing our stuff.
I got everything packed except for what Cindy might want and started to get a little antsy. I hoped that she would be able to make it home through all of the chaos. I grabbed some of her clothes and was getting ready to round up the dogs when there was a loud knock on the door. It was a police officer and he told me to get out..NOW. By then I figured they didn't let Cindy back into the neighborhood so I loaded up the dogs and got in line to evacuate. I got about a block and saw Cindy driving towards the house so I whipped a U-turn and followed her home. She got some stuff and we got to leave together! I looked at our house one last time thinking I may never see it again and we left. Here are some pics I took while driving out:

As evacuees, we were about as fortunate as you can get. My sister and her family live about 25 minutes south of us and welcomed us with open arms. Their house is big and air-conditioned and she is an awesome cook. I got to spend time with my niece, Jordan and we even bounced on the trampoline a bit. Here is Jordan with our dogs in our temporary basement home:

Jordan likes dinosaurs and these were fighting to the death:

We are home now and the fire is far away and 80% contained. I still get a faint smell of smoke when I enter the garage but for us, things are back to normal. I went for my first ride from home since that Saturday when it all began and saw some of the burned down homes. In my local park, Ute Valley, there was a burned patch that looks like it may have started from an ember floating over Popes Bluff...that could have been very bad news if our firefighters had missed it. Those guys are on it and we all have an even greater appreciation for what they do. They saved so many homes and grieved when they could not. Wow. Awesome!

Here are some during and after shots from my front yard:

If you look by the traffic light pole on the right you can see some houses that are now gone. Terrible.

I sincerely hope that my next blog post is about a great ride. Ha!