scary fires don’t get clever post titles

September 6, 2010

The fire here is still raging: 3,500 acres at last update, about 3,000 folks evacuated, and “some number” of homes definitely destroyed (there’s pictures of at least half a dozen on fire in the news, and no doubt many more are gone).  It also has a name now, though not a very imaginative one: “the Fourmile Canyon fire” (can you guess which canyon it started in, and how long it is?).  It’s nothing but bad news all around.  The winds were too strong to get any planes in there until sunset, and the emergency crews have announced they’re not even really trying to put out the fire tonight, and instead are aiming just to keep it from spreading as much as possible.

I drove the partner back to his home an hour to the north of here earlier this evening, and was grimly unsurprised to see the smoke from the fire clearly on the entire drive up there.  I was, however, somewhat grimly surprised to see the actual fire itself, from one point in the middle of Boulder.  Worse, on the way home, I could see the actual fire from north of Berthoud.  Not just the glow, mind you, but the direct light from the flames.  Because I know this means absolutely nothing to the majority of my normal readership, here’s a helpful illustration.

From Berthoud, it looks like a large portion of the mountaintop is on fire.  That might actually be accurate.  Hard to say.  Funny thing about fires is that nobody can tell you anything halfway accurate until the fire is out, or at least entirely contained, so we’re not likely to know anything confirmable for a few days yet.  Y’know, other than THERE IS A BIG FIRE AND IT DESTROYED THINGS, but I can tell that from the park in my neighborhood.

One interesting and terrifying thought occurred to me at several points today while watching this thing evolve.  My roommate was out backpacking this weekend, coming home today, and while she was at least as far from the fire up in the mountains as we are here in town (not very, but enough to feel unthreatened if you know how far away you are), I imagine it could have been a pretty harrowing situation.  Imagine: you’re hiking, haven’t talked to anyone who has any news in days, let alone the last few hours, and then you see smoke up ahead.  Then, the smoke gets thicker, and you start to see ash accumulating on things (this happened in sections of Boulder as well, just not at my house yet, thank goodness).  You know there’s a fire somewhere close, but you have no idea where, or how close.  What do you do?

The straw poll results based on kitchen attendance at 11:45pm say that you should just hike out of there and hope for the best, keepin’ on truckin’ as long as you don’t see signs of things getting worse ahead.  I haven’t had a chance to ask the actual was-in-the-woods-today-with-no-news roommate, but we’ll see if she actually faced this situation, and what the decision-making process entailed.  I really can’t imagine many more hellish hiking scenarios than this one, perhaps just because it’s so close to reality here (and no doubt was reality for many people today in the area).

Anyhow, fire is bad.  That’s more or less the news from here.  Hope that everyone affected is doing their best to stay safe, and we keep hearing those magic words, “no injuries reported.”


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