Saturday, June 23, 2012

Colorado Fires

I am very distracted tonight.  I have been watching the news continuously since about 4:00 today because there is a fire near Colorado Springs that has caused over a thousand homes to be evacuated in Colorado Springs.  Thankfully, as of this evening, the fire itself has not crested the ridge that separates the town of Colorado Springs from the mountain areas where the fire is now 0% contained.  Not only are the small towns that line Ute Pass or Highway 24 west of Colorado Springs all evacuated or are on voluntary evacuation, but also many homes are evacuated right in the town if Colorado Springs.  None of these populated areas are on fire now, but evacuation is mandatory because of how quickly the fire can spread depending on the wind direction.

The photo below is an amazing photo that was taken of the fire earlier today from the top of Pikes Peak.  You can see Colorado Springs in the distance.  Some of you may remember that Katherine Lee Bates was inspired to write  "America the Beautiful" when she saw this same view from the top of Pikes Peak.  She wrote the following about the experience that led to her penning the words for this song, "One day some of the other teachers and I decided to go on a trip to 14,000-foot Pikes Peak. We hired a prairie wagon. Near the top we had to leave the wagon and go the rest of the way on mules. I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse." photo
This photo was taken by someone on top of Pikes Peak about 2:30 today

I have no idea how many fires are now burning in Colorado.  As of this afternoon, the one near Colorado Springs is a new wildfire for the state  After beginning around 1:00 p.m., by 8:00 p.m.,  the fire spread to 2,000 acres.  Fighting the fire is a challenge because of:  terrain, wind, and heat.  The terrain is very steep, and there are many big boulders.  The fire loosens the boulders and causes even more dangerous conditions for those who try to fight the fire on foot.  The wind has been blowing, but it has now calmed down some. This does not mean that the winds will not pick up again.  Thankfully, the temperatures are now going down, but records were broken today with 100 degree heat in Colorado Springs.  (It was 108 at our house in Pueblo.)  The hillsides are incredibly dry.  We have had little rain, and we had little snow this winter.  The forecast is for more heat tomorrow, and there is no forecast for rain.

My cousin Donna who has a cabin west of this fire has been under mandatory evacuation since last Sunday because of a fire known as the Springer Fire that was burning near her cabin.  (I wrote a blog post about Donna which you can read if you clink here.)  She was just allowed to go back to her cabin today.  She literally just got up to the cabin before today's fire broke out about 30 miles away from her cabin.  Thankfully the fires in her area were contained.  This freed up firefighters for the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs.

She is safe; there is no threat to the area where she is living at this time.  She was looking forward to spending the summer in the cool mountain air of Colorado by living in the cabin her father built in the early 70's. She lives in the Phoenix area during the rest of the year.  Last summer we had a great family reunion at her cabin.  We have plans for another one this year in July at the same cabin.  Many of my family have built cabins in this area over the years.  Many family memories have been made in the area around my cousin's cabin.  Thankfully, that area is safe at this time, and Donna is back home in her cabin.

This photo shows how much of the area is surrounded by trees.  Unfortunately, the ground under the trees was very dry even last year.  It is worse this year.

My brother and his wife visiting a cousin's husband
Donna's cabin - 2011
Wagon Tongue, Colorado

Two cousins I had not seen in many years attended the gathering.
Barbara, on the left, works has worked at the gate on the highway that goes to the top of Pikes Peak.
She has worked there for years.
Her brother is the forest ranger stationed at the top of Pikes Peak.
Family Reunion
2011 at Donna's cabin
(Donna is in the green/blue top  She is the first person seated on the second row.)
Our roots go deep in the Colorado Springs area.  Our family is rare in that those of us in my generation are third generation natives of El Paso County in Colorado.  We grew up driving up and down Ute Pass near where the fire started.  We spent many happy summer days as children not far from this area in Victor, Colorado where our grandparents had a summer home.  Four generations have worked on the top of Pikes Peak.  My brother's grandson is working up there this summer.  We have never seen anything like this.  No fire has ever threatened our beloved mountain areas surrounding Colorado Springs.

My mother who is 96 years old lived in Woodland Park as a child.  Woodland Park, a small mountain town set at the foot of Pikes Peak,  is just about 20 miles from where today's fire broke out.  When she was just a small child, I think she was only about five years old, she watched her family home burn to ground in the middle of winter.  It is one of her earliest memories.  They lost everything they had.  All through my childhood, I remember hearing stories about this fire and how it marked my mother's life.  All of the precious photos which they saved are singed.  These scorched, treasured family portraits are grim reminders of the devastation of the fire my mother and her parents experienced.  These were the only things that were saved.  Today, as I spoke with my mother about the fire burning in the area so close to her childhood home, she said, "Fire is a terrible thing."  I just saw a photo the night sky lit up by the bright red flames burning west of Colorado Springs.  I was shocked.  It looks life the world is on fire.  That is fire, not the sun setting!

Photo by:  Kristen Bennett of Wildflower Photography

We are praying for all those who are affected by this wildfire.  We pray for those who have been evacuated from their home.  We pray for safety for those fighting the fire.  We pray that no lives or structures are lost.  We are praying for rain, no wind, and cooler temperatures.  Dear blogging friends, please join me in praying for a quick end of this fire.