Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Fires of Hell

June 29 update: As of this morning, the Boulder area fire is reported at 40 percent containment, and the worst appears to be over.

Wildfires have raged here in Colorado for weeks now. They're getting a  little closer to home.

The scariest by far are the fires burning down in Colorado Springs, where we used to live and where both of my children were born. This is the Waldo Canyon fire. At least one person has died in this conflagration.

Brushfires started yesterday just west of Boulder, not too far from where I live. It's almost funny – almost – that my mom emailed me (from 1,500 miles away) the day before knowing only what the national media has reported. I assured her we're quite safe.

We're still safe, but it's getting a little too close for comfort.

The fire began yesterday afternoon. Last night around 6:30 I jumped on my bike and rode to a place where I could get a better look. I took a series of pictures, including the one at left. As you perhaps can tell, this fire is in a canyon located behind the mountains in the distance. (These are the Flatirons, part of the Front Range of the Rockies.)

I emailed a few friends last night. So far, everyone I know is well out of harm's way.

As of this morning, the fire is reported at about 300 acres. This is peanuts compared to the Waldo Canyon inferno and the High Park fire, which is burning north of here, near Fort Collins. But these situations can escalate rapidly, so there is still plenty to worry about.

I never got very close to the fires on my bike ride last night. Not that I wanted to, and not that I could have if I'd wanted to. I reached a point where the road I was on turned into a narrow lane of cracked and broken asphalt, and this gave way to a rutty old dirt road. At right is a detail of a photo I got from this locale.

While I was there, the wind really picked up. The fires are already aided and abetted by tinder-dry conditions brought on by low precipitation this past spring, and by soaring temperatures over the last week or so. This is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. High winds are an X-factor, a frightening part of the equation.

When I turned my bike around to start heading home, a few stray raindrops dotted the ground. I felt a few of them splash on me. A tease, really. A tortuous tease.

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