THE COMMUNITY OF FIRE
Some people have asked if the Spring Fire is close to Suzy and me. It is not. I post the information, though, because I know the area and my heart goes out to the people who are threatened, especially in the town of La Veta. I participated in an online chat with some locals while the authorities were giving one of their fire briefings, and it brought back lots of memories. There was so much uncertainty. Some people were angry that the authorities were not giving out information, but I shared from my experience that bad information is worse than none.
Although we are not directly affected, we do experience it indirectly. We get the smoke from the fire up here. Sometimes we have that brownish haze. Sometimes we smell it. Yesterday I was walking into my bank, and the SuperTanker flew overhead. For a few seconds, my mind beamed back to 2013. My skin crawled. Here we go again.
If you’ve read “Nomad’s Fire” you’ve seen the weather report for 2013. Things were scary dry on the ground and in the atmosphere. It’s not quite as bad this year, but it’s plenty bad. All it takes is arson or stupidity, and we’ll have other devastation at hand.
There’s lots of dry fuel in our county, so people are nervous about new fires starting. There are a couple of fires to the west of us, but they don’t threaten Colorado Springs. But Black Forest still has plenty of fuel and Cheyenne Canyon is very vulnerable. That would be a biggg one. I have friends who live on the edge of the forest. They are nervous.
What you have in Colorado right now is a tinder-dry state with fires in many places. Each requires local, state, and national resources. Do you call in the National Guard? Who gets priority for the SuperTanker? When do I pre-evac? Evac? What do I take? How will this affect our economy? Will there be smoke when our friends come for our daughter’s wedding?
Wildfires affect a lot of people in a lot of ways. As a community, our attention shifts. We watch the news and stay alert. One of my friends is a news reporter who has to drive to the Spring Fire every day. Because La Veta Pass is closed (the fire is on both sides and has split into two major fires), he has to go the long way ‘round. One night he did his 10:00 pm on-camera report, then drove four hours back to Colorado Springs. Only to repeat the process the next morning. I don’t worry about him dying from smoke inhalation; I fear that he might strike a deer on a Colorado backroad at two in the morning.
Another friend is fighting the Weston Fire and living in the field with the other firefighters. The temp got up to 100 in Colorado Springs the other day. Imagine wearing a fire suit in such conditions. And yet, without protest, they close their laptops at work, kiss their families goodbye, and head to the scorching front lines.
A fire is a community “event.” It gets the attention of people far-and-wide; it taxes our resources; it frays our nerves. In La Veta and Fort Garland, friends and strangers will gather today to hear the news: “Your house made it. Yours did not.” Some will handle it in stride, but most will be scarred for the rest of their lives. I could “hear” all of the emotions on the Facebook chat the other day.
On the positive side, we watch each other rise to the occasion, and each person does something to help. As with most disasters, you see the best and worst in humanity, but I can tell you from experience that there is a lot of “best.” It’s what helped us get through our fire, and it’s what we hope we show others when they go through their crises. And, I can never thank or praise our First Responders enough. The firefighters put their lives on their lives and their families on hold. The authorities do what I consider to be a fantastic job managing the crisis and the information. The news media work overtime to keep the communities informed.
Happy 4th of July, and keep a close eye on your fireworks.
July 4th, 2018, While the "Spring Fire" was intensifying in Southern Colorado west of La Veta.