Waldo Canyon Fire: Calming down and taking count

Hundreds of people have returned to their homes as the firefighters reach 45% containment. Though still a tragedy, only two deaths are reported so far. (Both bodies were found in a destroyed home.) The total acres burned so far counts over 17000. Residents of the Mountain Shadow neighborhood–one of the areas worst affected by the wildfire–were allowed to tour the damage today. Obama declared the damaged area a disaster zone, allowing us to receive federal funding in helping with firefighting efforts and recovery.

However, with all the damage and homes lost, it could have been much worse. I would like to thank the firefighters and local officials for handling the crisis the way they did. Without their help, it is almost certain that there would have been more lives lost. Many firefighters continued to fight, despite lack of sleep, food, and energy. Many were forced to take naps because they refused to rest, instead wanting to help with the efforts.

And despite a few looters and scammers, the community has really come together to support one another. Donations poured in for firefighters, evacuees, and volunteers. As shelters filled, neighbors offered their homes to those in need. We even took in a foster dog because many animal shelters were too full.

I can still see smoke flowing from the mountain tops and at night, the smell of campfire still lingers in the air, and there is an orange glow that surrounds certain spots of the mountains. The fight is certainly not over, but it is definitely calming down.

For a creative way to donate to the Colorado Branch of the Red Cross, click here.

The fire calms down as Obama arrives

The most recent updates for the Waldo Canyon Fire:

Waldo Canyon Fire is now officially the worst wildfire in Colorado history. They said that while you often prepare for the worst, you hardly see it and this fire has been the worst case scenario. There is now one death and one person missing because of the wildfire. Approximately 340 homes have been lost, thousands still evacuated, and over 18,000 acres destroyed. Over 1,100 firefighters are doing all that they can to keep things under control, and have managed to gain 15% containment. Of course, this is also contingent on the weather and any sudden storms or wind shifts.  At 8pm last night, the officials did allow some residents back in their neighborhoods, including parts of Rockrimmon and Kissing Camels areas (to find more updates on evacuation lifts, click here).

President Obama arrived in COS at about noon and will be here for three hours.The Mayor ensured that the president’s security will be handled completely by federal authorities so that all local attention can stay focused on the fire. He will tour damaged areas, talk with firefighters and local officials, and determine how much additional federal aid will be needed.  So far, the damage is estimated above $3,000,000. KRDO has been doing a fantastic job with continuous coverage and updates.

You can also get more information here.

More Updates

The fire continues to spread and work its way North.  To see a map of all the wildfires in CO and corresponding evacuation areas, click here. Please remember to be prepared–once the fire reaches you, it won’t allow you much time to pack and gather your things. And thought the officials are keeping an eye on things and alerting people, this fire is hard to predict because of the weather, so don’t wait for an evacuation notice. If you think you’re in danger, they are saying to go ahead and leave.

Right now, the east side of the Springs is ok still, but it’s always better to be prepared.

We can’t help it that we’re so hot

By noon today, the newscaster said to be careful in thinking that the fire couldn’t reach you and that everyone in all of Colorado Springs (which, by the way, has about 400,000 residents), should be packed and prepared to evacuate, just in case. By 2pm this afternoon, I had the car packed and ready to go. By 3pm, you could barely see 100 yards in front of you, it was raining ash, and the wind just started to pick up.

And just like that, the Waldo Canyon Fire moved on. By 6pm, the sky was blue, I could see the mountains again, and I made in to work to teach a couple classes. Though the fire is still raging and you can still see the smoke curling off the mountains, it’s a little more under control now. The Academy lost some land and the fire is currently creeping north (unless the wind decides to change it again). True, homes and livelihoods have been lost and there are still tens of thousands of evacuees, but there is a silver lining in this cloud of smoke:

In the past five days of one of the worst fires in CO history, there has not been one single casualty or injury.  The worst they’ve had is some visiting firefighters getting altitude sickness–that we can handle. In addition, hundreds of residents have stepped up to the plate, donating supplies for the shelters and food for the firefighters who barely stop to rest or eat.

I’m hoping this isn’t a calm before another storm, but I’ll keep you posted. For more information or updates, you can visit:

local station KRDO website

KKTV

The Gazette, Colorado Springs

And you can find an evacuation list here.

More Updates on the Waldo Canyon Fire

For those of us breathing the smoke and watching the flames from our homes (or shelters), click here to find more information and updates on the Waldo Canyon Fire. You can also find more information on the Flagstaff and High Park Fires, which are still currently burning north of here, but are now more contained.

My house smells like campfire

I love camping. One thing I might love more than camping is smelling like campfire after I’ve left. It’s just comforting and a reminder of a good time spent with nature and friends.

But there is something eerie about waking up to a whole house that smells like campfire and knowing that smell is caused by 24 square miles of forest burning on the mountains you see every day. There is something unsettling when you associate the smell of campfire with 32000 evacuated people from one town and an unknown number of evacuated houses gone. There is something sad and frustrating hearing that all this was caused by one person.

There are landmarks burning or gone. They had to let a barn of horses free because they weren’t sure who the horses belonged to, but the fire was coming. There are people waiting in crowded shelters who don’t know if they have a home to go back to because firefighters can’t get close enough to let them know which addresses are even there any more.

Last night, there was a chance of rain. Today, it’s supposed to be 90 and dry. I don’t know if that’s mother nature teasing us, or the weather man being too hopeful. But I have to say that this is the one time I have not enjoyed the smell of campfire.

The fiddle sounds and the mountains burn

It would happen. The year that I move to Colorado has to be a crazy year. The winter is unusually warm, my aunt breaks three ribs, and as of this past Saturday, the mountains are on fire.

A view of the fire from my work this afternoon–before it got too bad.

From the last time I checked the news (about an hour ago), over 5000 acres have burned, 3500 people have been evacuated, 70 homes have burned, and a local landmark, the Flying W Ranch, is completely gone. They’ve closed down the Garden of the Gods and have the fire 5% contained. It’s been dubbed the Waldo Canyon Fire and is thought to be an act of arson. Though I don’t think the fire will reach us, being able to see the flames from my work isn’t reassuring. I’ve gathered the important documents, packed my emergency bag, and am currently playing the waiting game, along with the rest of Colorado Springs.

With the waiting game comes plenty of time to contemplate, and contemplating made me realize that I wasn’t writing enough. What a silly thing to think as the fire rages on and thousands of lives are affected: I should write more and what a shame I can’t take my books with me. I feel like Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burns. (And though our fire might be a bit less epic than the Roman Empire burning, I like to think that it’s still relevant.)

It also probably doesn’t help that I recently saw Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, with Steve Carell and Kiera Knightly, where they have three weeks left on Earth before a meteor crashes into it. True, it’s not the end of the world (that I know of), but it makes me think what I should actually be doing with my time and of course, I come back to the ludicrous and most obvious conclusion: I should write more. Whether that makes me odd or honest or a bit of both, matters not; the mountains are burning and it’s time I took notice.