Last blog I ended with a cliffhanger-
Rio Grande County Sheriff Brian Norton gave the all clear for residents of South Fork to return to their homes, but because the fire was ACTIVE, we’d remain under in pre-evacuation status.
If we chose to return, we should leave our cars packed and backed into our driveways ready to pull out again on a moment’s notice. The shelter would remain open for those who did not wish to return.
Buster and Toby thought we’d moved permanently to the motel in Monte Vista. They’d climb in the car with us and wait patiently while we took our meals at the shelter for evacuees.
Undecided about what to do, after the Friday update, we made the trip to South Fork to check on our house. Smoke greeted us.
Heavy, mask-wearing smoke.
We left the dogs in the car and did a preliminary inspection. On the hill behind the house, we found a firebreak created by the firefighters.
We also realized how many trees and how much dead vegetation we had around our house.
Wouldn’t the wise thing be to stay where we were until the fire was more contained?
We took the dogs and went inside. Once we opened the front door, both dogs rushed to sniff around familiar surroundings. Toby jumped on our bed and watched as we discussed what to do.
After eight days in hotel rooms, the place seemed huge. With the windows closed, there was no smoke indoors. We had plenty of room to walk around. A kitchen to prepare healthy meals. Our own bed and pillows.
We decided to wait until after the a.m. briefing on Saturday and make our decision.
But once we returned to the motel, to living out of our suitcase in a cramped space, we knew we’d go home no matter what the report said the next day.
We arrived home around noon Saturday, June 29th, nine days after we’d been told to evacuate. The smoke had lifted some.
By Sunday morning, all smoke had lifted. The dogs and I went on our usual five-mile walk. I was amazed at how normal things looked. You’d never know behind the mountain peak beyond our house nearly 60,000 acres of the West Fork Fire burned.
We were glad we’d come home.
Then just to remind us who was in control, lightning struck a tree two streets away and caused a small fire.
A scary sign that, while we might have a roaring inferno behind us, a small lightning strike could start a closer fire.
For two weeks, we kept one car packed with what we wanted to save. The other car ready to be loaded with our clothes, food, and dogs when (if) the next evacuation call came.
Smoke came and went. Aviation planes flew overhead dropping retardant and water buckets, weather permitting.
Now the July monsoons have arrived. The fire crews are shrinking. Few planes are flying.
Yesterday containment was up to 66%.
Today a Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team arrived to begin their initial assessments of the after effects and develop a strategy for emergency stabilization and rehabilitation.
Same as the BAER team we’re creating defensible space around our house.
We do live in a forest. By choice, our lives center on living with the fire possibility same as we live with the bears, turkeys, and deer.
We love it!
Fires, bears, squirrels, deer, and all.
[…] This time last year, we were settling back in to our home after a mandatory evacuation for The West Fork Complex fire. If you missed those blogs, you can find the full story here, here, and here […]
That must’ve been a stressful time. I’m glad to hear you’re okay.
Thanks, Mike. It’s been a wild time. I’m thankful for the rain that’s quenching the smoldering embers and the skilled wildfire fighters that have kept the flames from our little house and town. Definitely not a summer I want to repeat.