This is the seventh day where we’ve been covered by smoke from the wild fires burning out in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and California. Our hearts truly feel for those who have been affected by those fires as we know what it is like to have fire threaten everything that you hold dear. We remember very well June of 2012 and 2013 when we watched helplessly as fire consumed homes of some of our friends and co-workers. Although we were fortunate in both cases to be spared anything other than having ashes get into our house, it was still quite frightening as we were very close to the evacuation zones. We had a clear view of the Waldo Canyon fire when it jumped the ridge and swept into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood and it was a sight that we’ll never forget.
We were driving home from visiting our youngest daughter at college in Boulder when we saw the smoke rising from near the base of Pikes Peak. At the time, that was the first time we’d ever seen smoke so close to the city of Colorado Springs and when we first saw it, we were surprised, but not too concerned. Over the next couple of days, we watched as the fire spread and moved north, but the daily fire briefings were confident that they could contain the fire west of the neighborhoods at the base of the foothills.
Unfortunately, the winds were strong that summer and, add to that the weather system that the fire creates for itself, the fire jumped the ridge that was being used as a fire break. From the time that the fire broke the ridge and the mayor ordered an immediate evacuation of the neighborhoods, to when the fire swept down to the houses, it couldn’t have been more than 20 minutes. We watched, mesmerized by the site before our eyes. It is hard to explain how something so horrible can somehow be beautiful at the same time. The fire fighters truly did a heroic job to save as many houses as they did, especially under the circumstances that they were under. At one point, before they got a handle on the fire, there was serious concern that it would sweep through the neighborhoods and continue east across the highway.
Probably the worst part of the fire for us personally was when the wind changed and blew the smoke directly at us. The sun was blotted from the sky and we were enveloped in an eerie, orange, smoke plume. As ashes landed in the yard and on the house, we were concerned about whether any of the embers could be hot enough to spark a fire in our own neighborhood. After a sleepless night watching the fires burning homes on the hills across from us, the sun rose to a morning where the fire fighters started to make gains on containing the fire. It took a few more days for them to completely eliminate any hot spots, but there was a sense of relief and an outpouring of support for those that were affected by the fire.
It was unfathomable to believe that a year later, almost to the day, we’d be watching smoke plumes billow above our neighborhood once again. The Black Forest fire was north of us and once again we were on the edge of the pre-evacuation zone. Although we were unable to see the fire itself other than by watching the news reports, the memory of the fire sweeping down from the ridge during the Waldo Canyon fire was literally seared in our minds. More friends and co-workers lost their homes and possessions, while all of us watched helplessly, listening diligently to the afternoon fire briefings. Between the two fires, more than 800 homes were destroyed affecting thousands of lives.
So, although the smoke is causing our allergies to be worse and the haze of the smoke is all around us, our thoughts are with those in all of the states where the fires are actively burning. Fire is truly wild and unpredictable, it can destroy one home and suddenly jump and completely miss another. Worst of all is the loss of life due to the fires, whether fire fighters, home owners caught off guard, or animals that have to be left behind, every lost life is tragic. We are truly hopeful that the fire fighters will gain the upper hand in the days to come.