The forest is burning. If you’ve watched the news at all, you know that Black Forest, just north of Colorado Springs, is on fire. Thousands have been evacuated, and estimates of 100 or more homes have been destroyed.
We live in Black Forest. While our home is on the western edge of the evacuation zone and the winds were blowing the flames eastward, we too were told to leave. We’re lucky that our house is currently still standing, and I had time to gather a few important items before driving away.
Ten years ago there was the Hayman Fire in the mountains west of us. Last year the Waldo Canyon Fire burned almost 350 homes, and we had evacuated friends staying with us. We’ve lived in Black Forest for 20 years, and we were well aware that a fire was likely at some point. We’ve created a “defensible zone,” eliminating highly flammable vegetation from around our house. We’ve collected and removed “slash” (downed branches) and “fire ladders” (those little dead branches on the lower part of the Ponderosa trunks. We made lists of what to grab first, took photos of every room in the house, stuffed important papers into a fire safe, and knew where the cat carrier was stored—and still, when it really happened, I found I wasn’t as prepared as I thought.
When I became aware of the smoke, I started loading the car. I watered the houseplants and tended the chickens. Although the point of origin was within a mile of our home, the fire was spreading in the opposite direction. I honestly didn’t expect to have to leave. Then, without warning, a sheriff appeared in the driveway. “You need to leave now.” Now?
Stuffing the surprised cat into her crate and into the car, stacking the gecko tank on top, I took one last look around the house and pulled out of the driveway. The roads were choked with emergency vehicles of every type imaginable, along with tanker trucks, animal control, horse trailers, and other evacuees. I was heading for a friend’s house 15 minutes away, but closed roads turned the trip into a 40 minute crawl, our distraught cat howling the entire way.
Pete met me at our friends’ house and we unloaded the car. I looked at what I had brought, somewhat surprised. Clearly I hadn’t been thinking very clearly. Oh, I had the backup drive with all my scanned and digital photos, and our financial information. I dumped the as-yet-unfiled 2012 tax pile into a box. We had already collected our “essential” documents, so those went on top. Then things got sort of… random. I had grabbed a laundry basket and just started dumping. Irreplaceable artwork from trips overseas. Toothbrushes! A cross-stitch one of our daughters made in elementary school. Underwear (2 changes). Clothes. Hiking boots. A book I’m reading. Prescription bottles. My Bible and journal. Cat food.
Pete seems totally calm, at peace, responding to concerned friends and supporters with, “Oh, we’re fine, just staying in town for a bit.” I feel less-than-spiritual because I’m just not that calm.
It’s odd. I think I’m fine. Really. We have our pets (well, except for the chickens). We have one another. We even have a few treasures. If the house burns (and the wind just shifted as I write this so it’s once again in danger), well, it burns. People lose houses, whether from earthquakes, tornados, floods, fires, or foreclosure. You cope and move on. We have insurance. We’ll be all right.
Then I do something stupid and realize that, while I think I’m fine, I’m actually pretty stressed. I went to work out at Curves this morning (in borrowed clothes and shoes), then left without my purse and had to go back. At my doctor’s appointment this morning, my blood pressure was elevated about 30 points. Somehow, while my brain assures me that God will take care of me, my body isn’t so sure.
Well, they just announced that my dad’s senior living facility is being evacuated due to excessive smoke. He’s 91 and confused. We have to go pick him up now.
I’ll post an update next time I have a chance. Please pray for the fire fighters and those waiting and hoping to go home. Until then, God bless!