The High Park Fire day 2 smoke plume rose to over 20,000 feet and stretch 200+ miles into neighboring Wyoming and Nebraska.
By now the wildfires in the western United States, and Colorado in particular, are National news. Like other national disasters - storm events, accidents, etc. - to those not directly impacted by the fires it may seem a little abstract. Like other disasters for those immediately impacted by events, it's very, very real. In the city of Fort Collins we were in no immediate danger from fires such as the High Park Fire. It burned in heavily forested lands to the West and North of the city center, plus there is a large body of water between the fire and the city acting as a natural buffer. But to those who's homes were threatened by the path of the fire, and the men and women fire fighters who were in the thick of the mayhem, breathing smoke for nearly 3 weeks, in triple digit temperatures, putting themselves in harm's way to wrestle this mammoth fire into submission for the sake of those who's homes were threatened - it was as real as it gets.
Rafters carry on business as usual as Fire Fighters lock down another hot spot along Highway 14's Poudre Canyon.
I trained as a volunteer fire fighter in Boulder County many years ago. I never saw a fire, but did go through all preparation. Let me tell you, what those men and women do is not easy - by anyone's standards. That's why the other evening as we were heading to a wedding in LaPorte, one of the areas at the foot of the fire and used as early staging for disaster relief, something caught my eye. As we headed up Overland Trail and neared the town of Laporte, signs began to appear along the edge of the road. First a couple, then more, then we lost count. Homeowners - many of who's homes weren't even directly impacted by the High Park Fire, fashioned hand-made signs with whatever materials they had on hand to make sure the wild land fire fighters knew their efforts were appreciated. This really got to me.
As the victims displaced by the fire made their way to not so near-by Budweiser Events Center, actually south of Fort Collins in Loveland - a good 20 miles from their homes up Rist and Poudre canyons, the community that is Northern Colorado really kicked into gear. Many went to the evacuee's offering food, clothing, and shelter - anything to help those who'd lost their homes, or possibly even worse - wouldn't know if they'd lost their homes until they were allowed back in to the burn site to see if it's still standing.
Just out of Bellvue, Colorado at the bottom of Rist Canyon, another area hardest hit by the High Park fire.
I'm proud of our community and grateful to those who worked so hard to put out the fire that can only be described as monstrous. I remember seeing early footage on the news of entire mountain sides engulfed in flames with dead, beetle-killed pine trees crowning - bursting into hellish flames towering far above a few, tiny yellow-shirted fire fighters with pick axes, hacking out an insignificantly thin line in the mountain below. My first response was, that looks like such an unfair fight... it looks hopeless. But through perseverance, dedication, hard work, and the grit deeply embedded in the western mind set, it's the fire that never had a chance.
All this to say, Thank You, Fire Fighters. From the bottom of our hearts. We are grateful for and respect your sacrifice for us, your neighbors.