Wildfires in Suburban Colorado…

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….were a little too close for comfort…. as the crow flies and to be somewhat exact, the last part of devastation occurred about a mile to 1.5 miles from our home.

Black squiggle top right – general location of our house

As many of you probably heard this past week, Boulder County, Colorado had one of the worst fires in the state’s history. Rough numbers: 1,000 out of 2,000 homes/structures burned, 35,000 people evacuated, 2 very sad casualties, and who knows how many pets were lost. It all makes me sick to my stomach.

What caused it? Not sure just yet, the latest story out there is that it may have started in a barn or a shed – an investigation is on-going. This fire happened to start on one of the windiest days I have ever seen in 20 years of living in CO. Gusts up to 100+ miles per hour – ahead of a major snow storm. Between the wind and significant lack of snow, Denver and Boulder are truly matchsticks ready to be lit.

Ariel view from a plane – gathered from news

As you can imagine, the fire spread pretty rapidly. Many people had only 10 minutes to gather kids, pets, important papers and get the hell out of their homes. Entire neighborhoods were decimated. People lost it all. Many were on vacation or at work and had no chance to recover a thing, including beloved pets.

Friend of a friends home – this neighborhood completely leveled

The amount of sadness in our community is palpable. I ran to the store on New Years Day and the heaviness in peoples hearts was clearly felt. It was hard to say the words, “Happy New Year”, when 100% of us in this part of Boulder County know at least 1 family impacted.

I’ve been crying every day since it happened. It could have been us, people are in pain, families are suffering. The only way I know how to cope is to jump in and help as much as possible. The past few days have been spent connecting people, fulfilling needs lists, purging closets, picking up donation items and trying to make others feel loved and supported during the shitiest time of their lives. It’ll be on going for several months while people find housing, which in Denver and Boulder is hard to come by and certainly not cheap.

Soooo, what was that day like for us – being so close? In a nut-shell, pretty terrifying. Fire is the scariest disaster for me – fire and tornados. UGH.

Sean and I were having lunch in our little town on December 30…..it was a great lunch, so great we were wondering why we hadn’t been going to this place for the past 3 years. When we left around 1:30, the sky was full of smoke. Anxiety instantly kicked in. We could tell it wasn’t good. Smoke was billowing over our neighborhood.

We ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things….we were so stressed we walked out of the store without our bags. Didn’t realize it until 45 minutes later – not sure if that was early onset dementia or anxiety. LOL.

The news coverage was all over every channel so we could definitely see what was happening….winds continued to blow fast and furious, we could see homes being destroyed, heading in our direction. Panic set in – 2 cars full of stuff were ready to go at a moments notice….we both cried, feeling utterly and completely helpless. Worried about our friends and every other family watching their homes go up in flames on national TV.

Yogi was worried too

At about 5:00, all of our neighbors were loading up cars, ready to evacuate. A police car drove through the hood and warned us it was moving fast and that it was a good idea to prep – it was inevitable we would have to leave. That was enough for most neighbors – they all hit the road. In doing so, they sat in traffic for an hour + trying to cross town, while we sat inside and waited it out. Not sure which option was worse.

Every so often, I’d walk outside to make sure looters hadn’t broken into our neighbor’s homes and to check the smoke patterns. The unfortunate result was that I could hear homes and cars blowing up from the front porch. I’ll never forget it. Honestly. It’s etched in my brain.

Skies over my neighbors home

The news reported the wind was shifting and moving away from us, which was somewhat comforting for our home. But we have friends in other parts of the city who could have been potentially impacted. By 8:00, smoke was dissipating and we could calm down – no evacuation necessary. The amount of love and support we received from family and friends was overwhelming. We had homes to go to all over Colorado, Texas and Oregon. One cannot express how comforting that was.

The aftermath as you can probably visualize is pretty horrific. However, there were some unbelievable miracles that occurred. The fire stopped short of a friends home….not every home on every street was decimated (with the exception of one particular neighborhood referenced above), one home would be left standing amid 20 + burnt others. The wind patterns created a tornado-like effect where flames would literally jump over structures.

Friend of a friends home spared

All I can say is I’m grateful we and our immediate neighbors are ok. Things could have been significantly worse. I’m seeing a HUGE amount of outpouring of love and support for these communities – my faith in humanity is being restored. One of my BFF’s employer is donating $100,000 to a community fund. I have colleagues from other states pitching in. Just amazing. It truly feels like we lost a limb – the trauma is real.

The efforts of our first responders was truly incredible – with the winds, the fire could not be contained at any rate of significant speed, but there are stories where they jumped in IMMEDIATELY when they could.

Snow began to fall on Friday morning 12/31 – a HUGE amount of relief was provided to everyone in CO. I will NEVER complain about snow again – EVER.

Time will tell what caused this fire, but if it was because of some human, well, I have no words for that individual (s). If you have friends in the Boulder or Denver area, there is a great chance someone has been effected – emotionally or physically. Reach out and ‘touch’ someone if you are able.

Let the healing begin.

….i choose this…

Pam

75 comments

  1. Oh, Pam!!! My husband and I had been hearing about this — we both graduated from CU Boulder and lived in Denver afterwards for awhile. In all of the time we had been there — and in the time since — up until now — we had never heard of wildfires during the month of December — for precisely the reason you mention — typically, there is snow cover. But as things have changed with our climate — it stands to reason that this could, in large, be part and parcel to this tragedy occurring. When my husband and I lived in eastern Washington state, we had a 10 acre farm nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. I recall, vividly, one year when we had to do exactly as you and Sean had done — load everything up and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. In our case, that included not only ourselves, our dogs and cat, but also our horses and our donkey. The fire line came within one mile of our farm before the wind shifted direction. It was terrifying! When you mentioned the fire started, possibly, due to a barn — it made my heart sink even further as this is one of my biggest fears. Some years ago, one of the large equestrian centers in my community had a fire, though in that case, the fire had started with the home on the property — and in another situation, the fire did start with the barn. During this time of year, I am especially on edge as we need to use heated water buckets for our animals in our barn due to the extremely cold weather. I am constantly checking everything to make sure things are OK. And speaking of that: I am relieved to learn that you, your family, and your home are OK! I am heartbroken for those that have lost loved ones — people and animals alike…for the loss of homes…for all of the people, domestic animals, and wildlife that have suffered… for those that lost their lives — there are no words to describe the pain! If you hear of other fundraisers going on, please share as we would like to help! Stay safe!!! ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. oh my gosh – thanks so much for the empathy – you’ve lived through it all and are sooo connected to this part of the state! The livestock – oh the livestock – I forgot to mention all of that – all kinds of angels chipped in and helped move horses, donkeys and everything in between. Ohhh, I didn’t know there were such things as heated water buckets – thanks for the education on that. Take a look at commfound.org and see if anything resonates with you. Lots of information on ways to assist. Thank you so much for being an angel yourself and for taking an interest in this community. It’s just amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, can’t there be other emojis?? WP needs to get with the program. lol. Thanks for commenting. Really appreciate it. Happy new year to you and yours. I think once displaced folks can find housing, life will start to fall into place albeit, slowly.

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  2. Thanks for the update, Pam. I wasn’t sure how close you were to this. Glad you’re okay! I feel so bad for those who lost everything, especially at this time of the year. We made “Go” bags and storage totes last year in case a fire happens here. You never know when a disaster might strike. Thinking of you from Bend.

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    1. Thanks!! Sean and I were talking – when we move to Bend, we will have to have “go” bags also and other things that may help with a potential disaster up there. Appreciate the sweet thoughts – so helpful right now. Every day it gets better. The first few – everyone was just in survival type mode. Hope we never experience this again!

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  3. How terrifying for you and others to have to experience packing up, evacuating, and potentially losing your home. Such a tragic event. I hadn’t heard about the 2 deaths but I suppose we can be thankful it wasn’t more. Thankful and relieved for everyone whose home was spared, and my heart goes out to all those who lost their homes.

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  4. It’s really terrible … a fire is probably one of the most devastating disasters in this world! I’m really glad you’re ok – and my heart goes out to those who lost everything (how sad about the deaths – even if it was “only” two). Your photo’s just confirms the absolute tragedy … we’ll keep Colorado in our prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your comment of only 2 made me pause for a second – I made that sound like 2 didn’t matter. UGH. Going to try and reword a few things. Do you all have to deal with huge fires in SA? Thank you for the kind words and sending prayers this way. Happy new year to you two.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I’m sorry Pam, I didn’t mean to scrutinise your writing 😟 … I was just thinking that even 1 death is a death too many.
        Yes, we have fires almost every year – during summer times there are fires in the mountainous areas (especially Table Mountain), but the worst wildfire disaster in South African history was in 2017 in the Knysna area … that was devastating … I think after 4 years some of those families have still not recovered from this tragedy!
        Thinking of you guys 💌

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ohh, I did not take it that way!!! You made me think about what I was saying!!! That’s good! Thank u for doing that. With dumb COVID and supply chain issues, I worry about how long it will take. Ugh. Thanks for being so kind. 💕

          Liked by 1 person

  5. So terrible to face this and especially at this time of year. 2021 seems to have been the year of disasters, pandemic, late season tornadoes in the Midwest, wildfires all over B.C and late season flooding in a very vulnerable part of B.C. One can only hope that things will settled down, at least for a while and that it is not too late to delay or eliminate future calamities. Stay well Pam. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know right???? It’s a crazy time here – we also just had a mass shooting a day or 2 after xmas. WTF. I remember the very sad time of wildfires in Australia – I couldn’t stand watching that from afar. I hope you all had a nice holiday Mel!! We did, until the 30th!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t quite get how bushfire and snow work together, but I understand you had little snow and big winds. Just too scary for words! Thankfully we have only had a couple of smallish fires so far this season, but there is plenty of Summer to go. Fingers crossed we all stay safe, right across the Globe. x

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Soooo, usually before a snow storm we’ll get big winds. The problem is that we haven’t had ANY snow in this area so any little thing can start a really bad fire. Usually we have snow on the ground starting 10/31. The winds were also more fierce this time at 100mph…that’s hurricane type winds. Windy again today but we have snow on the ground. Another storm for tomorrow – yay. I will be keeping my fingers and toes crossed for you all 💕💕

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  6. Aww, thanks for taking the time to read this. Life can change in a blink! This is why we plan trips to NYC and spas. ….And post funny as HELL barbie memes to keep things light! Thank you for that…still laughing.

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  7. Oh my goodness! I’m with Back Roads above – it was hard to push the like button on this. John and I also watched with horror as the news reports started coming in about this terrible fire. We have lots of family in the Boulder/Lafayette area and were holding our breaths that they would be OK and their homes spared. Our relatives all did fine, but sooo many others weren’t so lucky. I have one cousin who works as a nurse in a neonatal intensive care unit, and they had to evacuate all the babies to other hospitals (including carrying some in their own cars). How frightening it must have been for the parents of those babies, who must be in pretty delicate condition to be in a NICU.

    Your description of hearing homes and cars explode from your front porch really got me – that must have been awful for you. We’re so glad your home and neighborhood were spared. Here’s hoping 2022 will be a year of recovery and renewal for the victims of this terrible fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. good lord, no, I cannot imagine transporting babies in their cars – and the fear of the parents – OMG. Hoping all of that turned out successfully. On that note, if anyone in your family knows of a family in need, I picked up some baby items from a friend yesterday – I have a REALLY nice bassinet, bouncy swing, highchair, etc. I’d take it to a donation site, but I don’t always like how they handle donated items. I’d like these to get into some good hands. LMK. Thanks so much for the comments, I appreciate the support here. Im sure your family members are processing everything also. I’m seeing blue sky today and feeling a little PTSD – I’d like to see more snowfall.

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  8. Thanks for the helpful narrative and reporting about the fire. We have friends living near Broomfield and fortunately their house and neighborhood were spared although they were ready to evacuate. And unfortunately, you are moving to an area that is not immune from this same type of catastrophic event as evidenced from the fires which ravaged Oregon last year. It’s a continuing lesson to all of us re. planning residential communities, promoting efforts to mitigate climate change and helping neighbors when disaster strikes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhh, that is good to know about your friends!!!! I was communicating with a friend in BF every 2 minutes. I thanked her for being my human Xanax. Lol. The thought did cross my mind about our new town. We’re already discussing how we might handle things up there. I probably need to detach myself from things as evidenced by the amount of sh*t I packed in the car.

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  9. I absolutely understand the fear and helplessness felt Pam, and it takes a long time for communities to heal and for the tension to leave. The aftermath is just as devastating and it is times like this that draws out the goodness of people too. Unfortunately there are scumbags that want to gain from others misfortunes too.
    Wishing you and your community all the best 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Glenys, you all know exactly how this feels. I hope y’all are spared this year! Why on earth do scumbags exist????? Makes me soo mad. The only saving grace is that I do believe in Karma. They WILL get their comeuppance. Thank you for the note! ❤️❤️

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  10. I tend not to watch the news as it’s generally very similar and not very interesting, so this is the first I’ve heard of this. I’m so glad that you are safe and OK, but I have HUGE sympathy for your neighbours. It must be horrific to flee your home and then return to see that it’s gone. Sending you big HUGS from across the Pond and I hope things get back to even semi-normal very quickly. ❤

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    1. We move in June/July! It will most likely be a little worse where we’re going. We absolutely would have been ok had we lost our place, as long as we had Yogi with us. It’s all the babies/kids who just celebrated Xmas and the pets who get to me the most. After 2 years of COVID and now this. Empathy is off the charts.

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  11. As we watched this on the news we thought of you and our other blogger friends from Colorado. Glad to hear you are okay but what a horrible event to have lived through and are still living through. Hugs to you. Maggie

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  12. I heard on the news about the wildfires in Colorado. That’s scary how quickly it spread and that it hit so close to home. I’m glad to hear that you stayed safe and didn’t have to evacuate. My thoughts go out to your community and those around you.

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  13. This is so awful. We saw the fires on the BBC news coverage over here and I really felt for those affected but I had no idea how close you were. It must have been so scary just waiting to see if the fire would reach you, and as for all those other people whose homes WERE burned, I can’t imagine how devastated they must feel.

    But I’m glad you’re OK and also that you’re able to do something to help your community now. Such tragedies do bring out the best in us but it’s a shame we need them in order to see that sometimes. I’ll be thinking of you all 💕

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    1. Ohhh thank you for the empathy Sarah!!! We were definitely pumped up on adrenaline just waiting…ugh. I know, the devastation is definitely real. I had a little setback yesterday, but will be back out today finding ways to help out. 💕

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  14. You know how many hugs I send you after what happened. You may share those with those you feel also need them. I’m so relieved you 3 are OK and that you could stay home ; I know you’ll be doing a great load of good around you to make as many people feel better too.
    I remember when the hill burst into flames near my childhood home and all around the mountain Cézanne painted so often, it’s indeed etched into your very core until the end of time.
    Everything blooms back again, though. 🌱
    Although this thought is not comforting today…
    Sending you and the community big hugs again.

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  15. Heartfelt observations, Pam. You bring the pain and camaraderie to life so that we can all experience the incident. Thank you for sharing, caring, and giving.

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  16. I am so glad you and your family are safe and you didn’t loose your house. It was frightening for us to watch in Golden, knowing we had friends near the fire area. I feel so bad for those who have lost all or most of their possessions. My heart breaks for those who lost pets to the fire. Boulder has set up a site to help deal with the disaster: http://www.boulderoem.com The site has a link on what to do if you have found someone’s pet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Julia – thank you! Yes, I had this irrational thought it was going to blow down 93 to Golden. I have a bunch of friends there. When you are in the middle of trauma – it’s amazing what the brain thinks of. The pets – omg – the pets – that makes me cry even more. I feel like some have been united with their owners – maybe thats what I am telling myself to cope. Here’s to better days ahead for all of us – thank you so much for reading and commenting – I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. We may need to do some snow dances to keep this moisture going until June.

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  17. We made it out and our house has been saved. Everything in South Rock Creek is fine (south of Coalton). I know of several families. A friend lost her rental in Rock Creek and her new home in Old Town. Crap. I wrote my account of it on Word Press, too. First day I’ve had a chance to sit down and write again. Another family in a newly purchased dream home in Spanish Hills.

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    1. I just read your post – OMG – your story is so heartbreaking!!! Your neighbors were soooo lucky you were able to grab their dog and you were sweet to do so. Im also sorry about your friends who lost their places – it makes me sick to my stomach. If there is anything I can do to help – just say the word. There have been all kinds of places to go for help and they’ll start to release funds from the Wildfire fund soon. I JUST drove past Spanish Hill about 10 minutes ago. So much snow I couldn’t see anything, but could smell plenty of burnt char in and around that area. I hope you recover from your own trauma soon. Every day it gets better but it’s still there for me. Thank you for posting your story – My heart hurts for our community. Grateful for all the snow we are getting. I need to sit down and study the map of everything – I’m curious to see the trajectory of all of it. Hang in there blogging friend!

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  18. Oh my gosh, Pam. What a horrific nightmare. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, though your words paint a vivid picture. I’m so glad you and your home were spared. I don’t relish having to make the stay/go decision. It was so odd to hear the news of it at the time. I was like, “It’s December. This shouldn’t be happening in December, should it?” I don’t hear about wildfires in Bend. I hope that’s because they are somehow less susceptible. Thinking of you and your community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks lady, I really appreciate the comment. I know, December…WTF. We have had about a teaspoon of snow until the last few days. We have a ton right now. Thank goodness. The last time we were in Bend, there was a fire a ways away, but it was apocalyptic- we could hardly see through the smoke. I hope you’re right! Y’all can come visit up there any time!!

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  19. I thought of you when all of this was in the news. Horrifying experience all around. Fire is scary. You survived intact, but I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to live through. Stay safe now, ok?

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