I’ve never had an up close and personal experience with a real wildfire.  I generally try and avoid stuff like that.. A few days ago, I got the unfortunate chance to get up close and personal with a fire.  It’s taken me a few days to digest what happened and, to be honest, at the time I was pretty freaked out.  A week later, I can sort of reflect on what happened.  Here is my experience.

Timeline:

1:00pm – I get a call from my wife begging me to come home from the office right away .  She says there’s a fire close by and the winds are hitting nearly 100 mph.  I do the “calm” thing and check the web..  no real news.  I tell her that I’ll keep checking and she should call me if things get worse.

1:05pm – I feel anxious and leave the office to drive home and check it out.

1:20pm – roadblocks on all major streets leading to my house.  We live just outside the city limits of Boulder on a 10 acre horse property, so many of the roads around us are dirt/rural.  I navigate my way around the roadblocks and finally get home around 1:45pm

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1:50pm – The smoke is all around us, and the wind is whipping with gusts ~100mph.  Its obvious that we are smack in the “fire zone”.  Jenn is loading 2 of our horses into our 2-horse trailer.  She tells me to stay behind at the house and if the fire comes to let the other 2 horses out of the pasture.  At least they would be free to run down the road and away from the fire.  Not exactly a comforting notion.

1:55pm – a friend shows up with a 4 horse trailer!  He loads the other 2 horses and we all evacuate.  I had the chance to grab a coat from our house and that was it!

2:30pm – we drop the horses off at a friends house 15 miles away.  After getting them somewhat settled into a paddock, we jump back in our respective trucks and head back into the fire zone.

This entire time, Jenn is fielding a constant stream of phone calls and text messages from all the other horse owners and barn managers.  People are desperate for help.  I call my dad who has a 2 horse trailer and he goes in to help at one of the larger horse facilities.

3:15pm – we get past the roadblocks going back in.  We have horse trailers and there are people trying to evacuate their horses on foot.  The fire is way worse, the winds are crazy and the smoke is like a thick blanket of fog.

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3:25pm – we see a horse and owner running down the road towards us and away from the fire.  We u-turn and load the horse on the trailer.  The owner starts talking about how her dogs are in her car which she had to leave behind.  I offer to go in and rescue the dogs.

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3:26pm – I jump into someone’s (no idea who) truck that is headed back into the core of the fire.  Jenn goes the opposite direction with the horse.

3:35pm – we enter the real part of the fire.  Flames on both sides of the road.  Smoke so thick that you literally can’t see the front bumper of the truck at times.  No idea why we get past 2 fire checkpoints.  We drive by our house.  The fire is immediately across the road and burning the pastures, trees, bushes and fences.  Flames are 10 feet high.  This is some scary shit!

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4:00pm – I plead with a couple of firefighters to save our house.  I figured that if I could somehow personalize it, they would try harder…

4:15pm – found the dogs.  2 Dobermans.  Awesome!  I jumped in the car to drive out of there.  No keys.  Shit!

4:16pm – call Jenn on her cell.  “come f**king get me out of here!”

4:18pm – Jenn pulls into a driveway of someone’s house 4 miles away.  Asks to leave the truck, trailer, and horse in their driveway – and borrow their car.  They (amazingly) agree.

4:55pm – Jenn arrives to rescue me (and the dogs).

Later that night we watched the news from a friends house.  The roadblocks clamped down after we got out and the fire was raging all around where we live.  Jenn and I were forced to track whatever news we could and hope that our house survived.  The reports are all over the place.  2 houses lost, no 4, no 7. actually 6.  In the end it was only 1 + several barns/outbuildings.  At one point the news reported a house had burned right where our house is.  We spent the night wondering if we had just lost everything.

6:00am – the next day.  We circumnavigated a police roadblock and got through to our house.  It was still there!  The fire stopped less than 10 feet away from our property.  Those firefighters saved our home.

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Later that next day, there was a fire burning in the core of an old cottonwood tree across from our house.  This is a picture of the tree when they blew it up.