Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Few Stressful Days

I know in Cyberland you don't always know where the people you follow live.  So let me tell you that I live in a little town called Woodland Park, Colorado which is 20 minutes up Ute Pass (Hwy 24) from Colorado Springs.  A picturesque little town in the Rocky Mountains and in the shadow of Pike's Peak.

The people in and around Colorado Springs have had a BAD week.  A VERY BAD WEEK.

Saturday my mom and I were in Colorado Springs running errands and getting ready to leave on vacation this week. Just before 1pm, I looked up to the foothills and snapped this picture.  I said to my mom, "Oh, this isn't good."   MAJOR UNDERSTATEMENT.

We finished our errands and went up Ute Pass (Hwy 24).  Half way up the pass is a pull out where people can park their cars and hike Waldo Canyon.  The fire started here and so locally the fire is the Waldo Canyon Fire.  The fire was quickly growing.

By the time I got home the mandatory evacuations had started.  Mostly around the entrance of Ute Pass.  I am "housesitting" for a friend who is out of the country for a few weeks.  Thanks to modern communication she started texting me - was it bad?  Where were the evacuation areas?  Could I go get a few things out of her house?   I got back in the car and headed back to the Springs.   The round trip probably took 3 hours tops.  By the time I was headed back up the pass, the fire had grown.   I snapped this picture going thru Cascade (one of the first communities evacuated).

By Sunday morning Ute Pass (Hwy 24) was closed.  And parts of tiny Woodland Park were under pre-evacuation orders.  Meaning...starting thinking about the what you need to take with you.  My mom's house was in this area.  I drove over, helped her pack up, and took her to my house.  I live across town (3 miles).

The fire continued to grow.  We had very little snow this year; NO rain this spring; and record HIGH temperatures.  "The Perfect Storm"

Fortunately, my mom drove off yesterday for the family reunion.  I'm scheduled to follow by air on Friday.  On both Monday and Tuesday the fire had gotten closer and closer to Woodland Park.  We are separated only by one ridge of mountains.

Yesterday...the unthinkable happened.

I sat in my chair in front of the television (where I've been for the last 5 days) and watched my old neighborhood go up in flames. I lived in that neighborhood for 10years.  I sold my house (now a rental) this spring.  I was thinking about the young couple that bought it.  They are just married.  It's their first house.  The renter I had was moving out this week.  The fire got within 2 blocks of the house.  As far as I know it's still standing.

And I think (so far) all my friends who live in the neighborhood still have houses.  The estimate now is 300 homes burned last night.

I packed my car with my mom's stuff, my friend's stuff, and my stuff.  When you're faced with the need to pick and choose what to take (and it has to fit in your car).  It becomes very evident what is important and what's not.  Would I miss my furniture?  Sure.  Would I pick a lamp over my great-grandparents bible?  Never in a million years.

This morning started out beautifully in Woodland Park.  No smoke.  A light breeze.  Noticeably cooler temps.

And then around noon, I got a text from a friend...ARE YOU LEAVING?   What??  Then on the news: "Woodland Park is under mandatory evacuation".   YIKES!  That will get your blood pumping.  I grabbed the few things I hadn't packed (laptops, purse, cat).  Closed the house.  Told my neighbor I was leaving and headed north on a 3hr drive to Denver and then back to Colorado Springs.  A drive to Colorado Springs usually will take me 20 minutes down Hwy 24. 

The following pictures were taken as I drove north to Denver and then south back to the Springs.  They are not edited (other than to change the file size) and come directly off my iPhone.

My trip north to Denver took me thru the Hayman Fire Burn area.  Ten years ago this month Colorado's biggest wildfire was started by a forest service employee.  It burned 138,000 acres and got within 8 miles of Woodland Park.  As of yesterday the Waldo Canyon fire has burnt 15,000 acres and is within 2.5 miles of Woodland Park.  Ten years later Hayman still looks like the far side of the moon.

Driving south out of Denver. The smoke column makes it's own weather (that's smoke going up, not rain coming down). The mountain to the left of the truck is Pike's Peak.

Driving thru Colorado Springs directly east of last nights losses. Normally, a wild fire smells like a camp fire or your fire place.  This smoke smelled like burnt insulation, wires, melted rubber, etc.

One unhappy Poe.

I am thankful for the following:
1) The 800+ firefighters from Colorado Springs, El Paso/Teller Counties, Colorado, and across the country that have come here to help us.
2) That everybody I know is safe!
3) That I have good friends that said, "Of course we'll take you in!!"
4) That I have saved the few things that are very important to me.
5) And for cyberspace...where I have managed to keep up with my friends/neighbors/coworkers; they have been able to keep up with me; and that I can share my heartbreak for my beautiful city with you.

Pray for us!  I'd still like to get my basement finished this summer...I need a house for that!

Deb & Poe, the evacuees


  1. Deb, when i saw the terrible news , I had to immediately think of Joanna. But then I remembered you live there too! Yikes. The more I am glad that you are well. Please, stay safe and alert !! You are in my thoughts !!

  2. thinking and praying for you Deb...

  3. Deb, I feel for you. The fire season is going to be horrendous across the west this year. No one had snow or rain. Today, the air in Salt Lake City smells of smoke. Still, no fire is even remotely close to my home or my family and I cannot imagine the stress of waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Take care. Your imaginary friends are thinking of you.

  4. Stay safe Deb! I'll be praying for you :-)

  5. Deb, I have been praying for you and Joanna. She has kept us up on most of it and yesterday she posted that she had heard from you and you were safe. We've been watching the news because Colorado is one of our favorite places to visit. I am so glad you are safe. Just know you are in our prayers.

  6. Hoping and praying things improve over the next few days!!!!! Glad you are safe :-).

  7. Great blog post. It was interesting to see the story from your side. I like how you kept your head enough to snap pictures as it progressed (I didn't). I am really sad thinking that my favorite hiking places won't look like themselves for over 20 years. :-(

  8. Oh, Deb, how awful. I hope you are well and can post again soon with an update.

  9. Deb's I am really hoping things work out OK for you sending through loads and loads of positive cyber thoughts and hugs that things will be OK for you and everyone else who are in the danger zone.

    By the way those cyber thoughts that I am sending are that you get the rain that we are having and we get your heat.

    Hugs Shirley x x