As was expected, this morning's press conference for the Waldo Canyon Fire update was hard to hear. I know there are many friends/family that are concerned about Heather and me as well as the dogs and even our home. Please understand that this is a very complicated fire. Many of the images that you are probably seeing in your local news are taken from the highly populated areas down the mountain in Colorado Springs. We are in an unusual situation way up here. We live at just under 9,000' but we are surrounded by peaks and ridges so our view is relatively limited. We cannot see any of the smoke or carnage that is happening down the pass or on the NW side of Colorado Springs where the fire exploded late yesterday. This morning I am having coffee and looking out the windows to a cloudless sky. As I look to the east and, specifically, at the top of the ridge I can see some smoke already. This is how things have been since Saturday. The fire seems to take a bit to wake up and get hungry.
The latest numbers are right at 15,500 total acres burned (24 square miles), 5% containment, and 32,000 people evacuated. 26,000 of those people were evacuated from the NW corner of Springs late yesterday. The image below (although horribly graphic) is from that corner of Springs. That fire came up to the top of a ridge and then ran down it in a time of 30 minutes. Seasoned professionals were seen with their jaws wide open as they watched this happen. I heard one person describe it as looking like lava.
The fire did advance much closer to us last night but it is still just up on the ridge and we cannot see flames (I did check very early this morning as I slept listening to the scanner). The fire has now wrapped about halfway around Rampart Reservoir (which is our local reservoir that is located on top of that ridge above me) and devastated that half which truly saddens me as it will never look the same to me again. The bears, mountain lions, deer, and the Rampart Elk herd were likely harmed but if they were able to get out safely, we won't see them up there again. There was a report that last night at one point an ember was able to jump over the reservoir and develop into a spot fire on the other side but crews were able to get that spot under control and extinguished. This is amazing to me. I ride from the house up to the reservoir multiple times each week. It takes me 45 minutes to hit the trail from the front door so that gives you an idea how close it is but it's probably 750' higher in altitude than our house. The trail around the reservoir is 13 miles total and it's gotta be .5 to 1 mile across that reservoir. The updraft created from the fire is incredibly strong.
The issue for us is the afternoon storms that we tend to see here in the mountains. In a normal year, these storms can produce a lot of precipitation but we have been in a drought for the last two years so about all they are producing is lightning and huge wind gusts. That's when the damage is really happening. These wind gusts can easily be 40mph out of the west and then shift to 70 mph out of the east. We loaded up more belongings last night and we receive texts for evacuation updates. All we can do is wait. I have gotten multiple messages via email, text, facebook, etc., from people asking why we are still here. We do not have a deathwish and we are not trying to go down with the ship. If we get bumped to voluntary evacuation we will likely leave our home. During an emotional talk with my dear wife last night, I think we both realized that trying to look in each room of our home and determine what's irreplacable and what's not is precisely what we just did last summer at her parents (and for all intents and purposes) my parents as well. We simply don't want to do it. That is probably the best explanation I can give as to whay we are still here. Some will get it. Others won't. Nobody truly needs to. We appreciate everyone's concerns as well as the well wishes and offers and will continue to try to keep the updates coming either here or on facebook or both.