Posted on July 7, 2013
Life in a Wildfire – Part 2
We arrived in Trinidad, Colorado, at three in the afternoon on the day of evacuation. We hoped we’d only be there for the weekend.
Unfortunately, the local evening news was not encouraging. We even made the national news.
The morning news offered no better outlook. Things were unchanged. The West Fork portion of the fire was spreading rapidly toward our little town.
Rather than sit in the hotel room or lobby glued to the television for news that was depressing, we decided to explore Trinidad
Lovely, lovely small town that helped divert our thoughts from what was going on.
By Sunday, we were tired of hearing about the fire situation from reporters on location. We needed to see firsthand what was happening. Plus, we’d seen the sites of Trinidad.
Praying the tourist who had come for the weekend would have checked out of motels/hotels closer to South Fork, we checked out of our Trinidad Holiday Inn (Great place to stay if you come up I-25 into Colorado, btw)
We loaded the dogs and suitcases into the car and headed back west to South Fork.
Ironically, there was also a fire burning in La Veta. The mountain pass we needed to cross to get home. Fortunately, there were no road closings.
We found a motel in Monte Vista about fifteen minutes away. We also found friends and neighbors who had been there since the evacuation. Seeing friendly faces lightened our spirits.
On our way to check in at the shelter, we stopped by the Del Norte city park to see where news broadcasts were being made.
Looking at the map and seeing how close the fire actually was to our home did nothing to brighten our spirits.
My finger is pointing to the location of our house and the advancing West Fork Fire East that was encroaching. Again the stark reality of our situation sent shock waves through us.
Every morning we went to the Red Cross shelter for breakfast and informational briefings by the firefighter personnel. Pete Blume, Incident Commander, or his second in command went over maps showing the position and progress of three fires and reported on control and containment of the #1 fire in the U.S.
Blume explained that meant that whatever resources were available were at his disposal, but even with all those resources he’d be unable to extinguish the fires that made up the West Fork Fire Complex.
Every day we heard that there was zero containment or control, but that there had been zero structural damage or injuries. That boosted our spirits.
We returned every evening to the shelter for supper provided by the Salvation Army. Those personnel were kind, compassionate, and did everything they could to elevate our stress at the uncertainty of ever being able to return to our homes.
Blume reported that a Dozier line had been formed behind Sentinel Peak from CO 149 to CO 160. That backfire line would be ignited if the West Fork blaze moved toward South Fork. He considered that a major step in the right direction. However, the Papoose fire had flared big time over night. He posted pictures from the blaze.
Uncertainty almost as palatable as the fear when we’d heard the mandatory evacuation order quieted room.
I heard the words “voluntarily returning to an active fire zone” and stared at this picture of the Papoose blaze.
The Red Cross shelter would remain open. The Salvation would be offering meals. We had a motel room seventeen miles away.
How could we return to our little house on the mountain knowing a roaring, unpredictable inferno that could easily erupt like the Papoose fire had loomed three peaks away with only a Dozier line to stop it?
Next blog, I’ll share what decision we made.