Remember back in May when I was complaining about a little 7,000 acre fire? Ah, those times seem so quaint and naive. In the last week, our worst predictions have been put to shame by the High Park Fire, a 52,000 acre monster that has devoured the forest just west of our town.
On Saturday afternoon, Mark and I put together our summer container garden and watched a huge plume of smoke rise over the distant foothills. Since then, we have had a week of hot, breezy days with no possibility of rain in our forecast, and the fire just keeps growing and growing.
There’s no real way to tell what damage has been done to homes, trails and lives until the flames die down and people can return. So far, estimates are at well over 100 homes burned and one confirmed fatality – a woman died as her mountain cabin was consumed by the fast moving fire on Sunday.
This time around, it’s not just the smell of distant smoke that is aggravating us. There is the devastation of watching your local hillsides burn to a crisp, and the ever present fog of dense and unrelenting smoke. My office is just below the reservoir, less than a mile from one part of this fire, and the smoke there is so terrible sometimes that it makes me ill. This morning, I woke up with a sore throat and clogged sinuses and determined I probably won’t be going back into my office to work until next week.
It’s now Thursday night, and there are over 1,300 people working on containing this fire. They announced 10% containment on Wednesday morning but have barely been able to increase that. There are helicopters and heavy air tankers flying over town all day long, a huge tent city of firefighters across the street from my office, and we’re hearing things about how “we’re in this for the long haul.” “This is just the beginning.” and “We know that more area will continue to burn before this fire is put out.”
I’m not sure how to wrap-up this post because it seems we are completely in the middle of this disaster. Mark, G and I are all thankful that our own home is safe, but our hearts break when we look out into “our” mountains and see our second, metaphorical mountain “home” going up in smoke. Hopefully, this fire will leave enough behind for the forests to recover quickly, and hopefully it will rain soon. Hopefully.