Thursday, June 14, 2012

High Park Fire

Last Saturday a fire started in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, probably about 25ish miles from here. By Sunday morning it had burned 14,000 acres and was growing at 20-40ft per MINUTE. High winds (sustained at 25mph, with gusts to 40) were fueling the fire like crazy and causing the smoke cloud to go hundreds of miles away, all the way to Omaha, Nebraska.

This is what our city looked like on Sunday morning, and it got MUCH worse with every passing hour.

We were on a red flag warning all day and night Sunday which, according to the web, means "increased probability that a quickly spreading vegetation fire will occur within 24 hours." We decided to wait until Monday, and if nothing changed we would pack ourselves some emergency bags for when we were told to go.

By Monday morning the fire was at 36,000 acres and still 0% containment. BUT, in the morning the wind died down, the fire changed directions, and we officially declared ourselves out of danger.

Currently, as of today, the fire is at 50,000 acres, 10% containment, 2600 homes evacuated, over 100 structures have been destroyed, 1 life has been lost, and over 1200 people are working on containment (including 2 states national guards). Plumes today are reaching over 34,000 ft in the air. It's currently the second largest wildfire ever in Colorado.

This is what our city looked like yesterday morning, though, and it still smelled like smoke the instant you walked outside. The skies were FULL of smoke and ash and the orange in the distance is fire. This is a photo from the skycam.

(from CBS5)

Here are a few photos of the fire over the ridges and around the foothills.

(From 9news, credit Bryan Maltais)

(from 9news, credit Clint Hartley)

These are a couple cell phone pictures a friend sent me when they went fire-chasing.

On the Eastern side of the country, we didn't have these issues so this is our first wildfire experience. We occasionally get the frantic family call in the middle of the night because they just saw it on the news and want to make sure we're still alive. For our first fire it's been kind of exciting, albeit terrifying. Also, as if nature wasn't creating enough fun for us, for the second time this month there was a tornado 45 miles from us (same spot both times). But, the fire is now at 10% containment so cross your fingers that this number gets to 100 pretty soon!