Monday, June 11, 2012

High Park Fire

Saturday morning another wildfire started in the foothills to the Northwest of us. It has been reported confirmed as being started by lightning. It wasn't raining, so I'm going to guess it was heat lightning? I don't know, but regardless, it's been so hot (in the mid-nineties which is unheard of this time of year) and so dry that whatever started it there were perfect conditions for the fire to spread fast and wide. It has done both, unfortunately!

Saturday 8pm

Sunday night's reported acres burned was totaled approx 20,000. The winds really picked up once the sun set, which didn't bode well for the firefighters who had already been working for 24+ hours.

 Sunday 4pm
Sunday 8:25pm

By this morning (Monday) the fire area had almost doubled to just shy of 37,000 acres burned. The winds calmed down and seemed to have shifted, though, because when I woke up the apartment didn't seem as smokey. Both Saturday and Sunday nights I was woken up by the smell of the smoke that had crept in through our closed windows. When I looked out the window this morning it wasn't as hazy, but the potted flowers on our patio had a covering of ash all over all their leaves so it was clear the air was thick with smoke and ash overnight.

While Jeff worked he sent me picture texts of the smoke billowing over the tops of the hills and creeping down through the valleys up at Horsetooth Reservoir. It takes about 7 minutes, driving, to get from our apartment to Horsetooth Reservoir so the close proximity was making me nervous. Throughout the day I checked the Larimer County and the Larimer Sheriff Dept's websites for official updates, I watched the live video feed where I was able to see the helicopters dip their fill bags into the reservoir and take the water back to the burn areas. It started to make me really anxious so I had to turn them off when Bean woke up from her nap and just focused on playing, coloring, and dancing with her.

When Jeff got home from work I packed up Bean's dinner and we loaded up in the car. We drove up to Horsetooth to see the damage first hand. There were hundreds of people up there with the same idea. Cars lined the roadsides, the picnic areas were full of people with binoculars and cameras, but regardless of how crowded it was it was remarkably quiet. People talked in hushed tones, the most noticeable noises I heard were the clicking of camera shutters and the airplane engines that flew overhead. It was really fascinating to watch the planes drop the flame retardant. There was a 'marker' plane who would fly in front, get directly over where the retardant was supposed to go, and then spit out a puff of smoke to 'mark' the area. Then there was one or two planes following behind who would drop the orange colored retardant on the hot spots below. The planes flew in a constant loop, their pilots working hard.

 Marker plane
 Reddish-Orange Retardant

 Planes circling back around 

We drove a bit further north in the direction of where the fire started and saw helicopters dropping water on the area back there. It was sobering to see just how close the fire had gotten to the farmlands on the outskirts of town. The barns that were close enough to see into were, for the most part, evacuated. I don't think there were many mandatory evacuations that far down into the plains, but there have been many recommended evacuations in the last three days.

Helicopter with water bag hanging below

Today ends the third day of the fire and at the last report I read it's still at 0% containment. According to the Larimer County Emergency Information Page 41,140 acres have burned, approximately 100 buildings have been damaged or destroyed and 1 person has died. Because it's still 0% contained the numbers will only go up from here. 

If you're the praying type, prayers are needed up here for the firefighters and volunteers working around the clock to try to get a handle on this fire, for the homeowners who live and work out there, and for the animals - of both the wild and farm varieties - whose homes are being threatened and destroyed. If you're not the praying type perhaps you could send a few positive thoughts this way. If you're the rain-dance type we could use a ton of rain too. I know that wildfire can actually be good for the environment, but it's still scary when it's so close to home.

Here are some more pictures from today's trip up to Horsetooth.

 Monday 7pm


Larissa said...

So scary and sad! I'm sending positive vibes for putting out the fire and crossing my fingers for rain!

Ky Johnson said...

You know I'm not the praying type but I'll dance a jag and shoot some rain vibes into the universe. Made for some pretty picture though. Especially the last.