April 21, 2018

Weekend Favorite: My house didn't burn down this week

#5 on the list almost burned my house down. Woo-hoo, right?

There was a fire in southern Colorado on Tuesday and, since it was a windy day, I checked the alerts on my phone often. I saw that people were being evacuated about 20 miles from my house around 1:00pm so I just kept an eye on it. I mean, the dogs weren't there (THANK GOD) and while I'd wish I'd had some of my things with me, things are just things and there was nothing I could do. At 3:20, I was told the neighbors were leaving and I would post some pictures of what it looked like for their drive out of the development, but it's pretty terrifying so I'll just not.

This is what Tuesday evening looked like in our "fair" state:

I left school (a 30 minute drive from home) 10 minutes later when the bell rang and made it to the intersection about 4 miles from my house. Everyone from our area was gathered and the police weren't letting anyone through. Again, while I wished I'd had some of my stuff with me, stuff was just stuff. Meanwhile, many were just trying to get home to get their horses or their pets and I couldn't even handle that (The dogs were with Scott THANK GOD.)

This is when I finally got to talk to Scott, on the phone, and we had to have that very real conversation about what we would do if our house burned down (We would salvage what we could this weekend. I would quit school early and just go to Wyoming. He'd stay here off and on to deal with insurance claims. And that would be the end of our time in Colorado.)

The neighbor gave me updates during this time, telling me the house at the edge of her property was on fire and fields were burning around our houses. Meanwhile, her husband and two other neighbors were stuck with police at a closer intersection, because they'd gone back to get their dogs (and luckily their houses didn't burn, anyway), but the police wouldn't let them leave the only presumably safe area they could see.

At this point, after about 20 minutes, I had to make some decisions. I went back to school to write up my sub plans. Our grade level was putting on a music program that evening and, while everyone told me NOT to come back, I quite literally had nowhere else to go,  had just the clothes on my back, etc. So I just made some piles of busywork, got the classroom ready for the next day, and put in for a sub. When the kids showed up, I sent them to the auditorium with another teacher and told them I wouldn't be there in the morning.

Then, I went to Walmart and bought pajamas and toiletries (I'm apparently shockingly high-maintenance...that's what this taught me) and went to my friend's house. I've known her for almost 4 years now and she always offers up her guest room when this happens (because it's happened before). Around 7:30pm, Scott called and said the neighbor called him and said they were letting people back in (to where we lived, not to all areas), so I thought I'd at least go back and get anything I wanted to make sure I saved. I didn't want to miss my window of opportunity.

I got home 30 minutes later and it all still looked like a warzone and I couldn't really get a good look because it was dark. When I got to the main intersection, where I'd been stopped around 4:00pm, the police officer there asked me where I was going. He wasn't familiar with my address, and just told me that if I "run into flames", turn around. I could definitely see flames in the distance, but distance is hard to judge on the prairie.

I saw my neighbor standing guard, watching for embers, along the dirt road, and he told me the power was out because the telephone poles had burned down and gave me an update on what had happened. I told him I was just grabbing some things and heading back into town.

So, I shuffled through the house with a flashlight in my mouth, making sure windows were secured shut and gathering clothes, toiletries, computer, chargers, our "go" box of important papers, etc.

I noticed that all my neighbors were home and had generators running but I wasn't staying in a cold, smokey house by myself and the view outside was still apocalyptic. Plus, the warning is always that "if the winds shift..." you can be in trouble again.

When I was driving back out, I saw a few glowing embers along the dirt road, so I got out and dumped my water bottle on them and that's how I lost the straw to my Hydro Flask bottle.

(missing straw and all the dishes I had to rewash because they'd been sitting out and were all dusty)

I went back to my friend's house (another 30 minutes away, right near my school) and settled in.

In the morning, I went to the hospital to do my glucose test (since I had the day off), and then I went back out to our house to see the scope of the damage.

Everything inside had a fine layer of dust and there was a slightly smokey smell. I aired the place out and washed all the bedding, blankets, clothes, etc that had been sitting out. Unfortunately, I'd had ALL the blankets and ALL the dishes sitting out to be packed for Wyoming so that was quite the project. If the power wouldn't have been back on, I wouldn't have been able to stay and/or do anything but go back into town. Luckily the electric and phone lines were working again so I didn't have to hole up in a Starbucks all day or on my friend's couch with her dog.

Hank is such a good boy but has a thing for destroying doorframes.

The next day, I was able to go to work, but packed my bags and took them with me just in case. I have no faith or trust in anything at this point.
As the sheriff said in the many news briefs I watched about this fire, it spread 35 miles in less than 2 hours because there were 60 mile per hour winds. If that can happen, anything can, so I'm just in a place of survival mode at this point.

The aftermath: Anything you see that's black is burned.

Standing next to my car in the driveway, this is what I saw:

(I don't care how calm things appear in this picture...if a person moves to Colorado for the "beauty", they'll be seriously disappointed and poor)

Luckily, it rained yesterday and today.

So for anyone and everyone out there complaining about too much snow or not having warm, dry springtime weather yet, I have no comment. I can perhaps dig up some empathy for you (from way deep inside) but no sympathy is currently available. I'm not quite sorry about that either.

I am mentally exhausted.

There are very few things keeping me from saying screw it and driving to Wyoming and staying there. Mostly the fact that I have a supportive group of coworkers and neighbors who genuinely care about me/us. I wouldn't make it out here on my own. A lot of people love living out where we live because they have animals and everyone who has been interviewed by the news plans to rebuild. I get it. They have a real stake in the place and that's fine. I just don't, after living in a few different states at this point.

To anyone who just talks about how beautiful Colorado is, I've likely already unfollowed you on social media and please just know that your experience is not my experience. Truthfully, I always thought Alaska would be the hardest season for me, with deployments and loneliness and all that...it turns out Colorado, with deployments, remodeling, natural disasters, infertility, etc have made this duty station the toughest (yet).


  1. Wow. That is crazy! Glad you didn't have any damage, but so sad for those who did. I was at dinner the other night with people I work/did work with and we all agreed Colorado was not on our list of places to live.

  2. Oh my word. I grew up in Nevada and have lived this nightmare. I completely feel for you and was honestly shaking reading this because it brought back frightening memories. I would take the midwestern tornado scares over the threat of wildfires any day of my life. So glad your house survived.

  3. I am glad your house didn't burn down this week. I've never lived anywhere with extreme weather or risk of natural disaster before (can fires be described as either of those?) so I'd be utterly terrified and have no idea what a sensible thing to do would be. Now we're somewhere where bushfires happen regularly and can be very bad, I'm suddenly aware of just how badly prepared I'd be. So I have definitely learned something from this post, thank you! And again, I'm very glad you and all your people and animals are safe.

  4. Wow how scary! I'm so glad your home was spared in the fire! I feel your pain...when people say the Phoenix area is beautiful & a wonderful area to live I have to bite my tongue. It's just not for everyone, especially me.

  5. Wow! So scary! I'm glad your home is okay.

  6. Jeez!! I’m so glad you’re all okay and your house is intact! The sooner you’re out of there, the better.

  7. This --> "if a person moves to Colorado for the "beauty", they'll be seriously disappointed and poor".
    We consider ALL the time just up and going. Screw the house, we'll figure it out later when we have less bills to pay from living here. It is SO expensive living here. It's ridiculous. I'm really glad your house didn't burn down though. That's so so scary.

  8. What an insane and scary experience! I'm glad you were able to get back to your house to get some important things...and I'm glad that you are getting out of there soon!


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