The CalWood Fire and Evacuation Plans

Smoke has drifted in the air all summer, primarily from the Cameron Peak Fire. Little did I know that the CalWood Fire would break out in Jamestown, close enough to make me panic. It’s still burning.

The first two photos are from Friday and the Cameron Peak Fire miles away.

Friday’s smoke from the Cameron Peak fire was the thickest due to a southeast wind.

I have friends who lost their new home and vineyard in Napa. The fire was so hot, everything melted. Nothing was salvageable.

What would I pack if a fire threatened my home? I had a couple of weeks to think about it.

Another shot of the smoke from Friday’s Cameron Peak fire.

If I had to evacuate, I would gather all of the family photos, artwork —boxes and containers filled with them — and then my jewelry. I’d pack a suitcase, grab my laptops, and trust that the fire file in our basement actually works.

I never imagined a fire would send me into panic mode so soon.

Have you ever planned a day that completely derailed? Saturday started out great, and I ticked chores off my list, started a new blog post, and planned to finish my Halloween decorations. Then I noticed this.

At 12:38, I recorded a video of smoke rising in a plume above the foothills. We live on a hill in Niwot directly across the valley. Since it was beyond the mountain, I figured it was pretty far away but kept my eyes on it and made a few calls to people who might want to prepare.

By 1:00 — twenty minutes later — the fire had taken off. Thick smoke billowed above the mountain. I called 911 and found out it had started in the very small mountain community of Jamestown — a thoroughfare for bikers and drivers heading west to the Peak-to-Peak highway, Brainard Lake, among other beautiful mountain destinations.

Over the next hour, I watched the CalWood Fire grow and thought about the high winds that have plagued other Colorado wildfires — seventy-five to ninety miles per hour this week! The wind shifts direction on a regular basis. Most of the time, it would come from the north later in the day and clog the air in the Boulder County area with ash and smoke. Friday was the worst ever.

What if it changed and came from the west? Saturday, the wind blew from the south.

At 2:20, smoke rose from on the face of the foothills. Fire raced toward the valley. The wildfire had already swept over several miles, and the tinder-dry grassy fields could be next. My house was only seven miles away.

I freaked out.

If the wind shifted from the west, the fire could easily jump the two-lane highway and spread across the valley. I prayed the wind would die down.

I made a couple of calls and started to work my evacuation plan just in case. My daughter, Courtney, and my sister, Patty, came to help my husband, Danny, and me. I gathered photo albums and boxes of loose photos, and unloaded my flat file filled with illustrations. I made a mental note of the walls covered in art. I considered packing a bag but figured we would get an evacuation warning first.

We watched as other fires sparked and burned in the north. One of them a control burn started by firefighters trying to get ahead of the spread of the CalWood Fire. No fuel? No fire.

With a great vantage point of the fire, by 6:00, I finally chilled the hell out. I kept my phone next to my bed in case of the dreaded reverse 911. We’ve gotten them before — one from the Boulder floods and the other from a gas outage a few months later.

This morning, Sunday, October 18th, Courtney texted me with evacuation notifications. Niwot is in the clear. Yay!

Calwood Fire obstructed by clouds and smoke

Mist has squatted on our area — a welcome relief from the drought we’ve experienced. Thirty-four degrees at 9:00 is a drastic difference from the 80s last week. Cool temps and moisture should help with the CalWood Fire, but I read that low visibility will keep slurry bombers from flying.

I can’t see the mountains. Smoke, moisture, or a bit of both could be obstructing my view. I don’t know.

The Cameron Peak Fire has burned for two solid months now and is the largest in Colorado history at almost 200,000 acres. It’s over sixty percent contained. The Calwood Fire burned over 8,700 acres yesterday or 14 square miles. Hopefully firefighters will get a handle on it today.

And yes, I believe global warming affects Colorado’s weather and is causing fire outbreaks like this one.

Stop back for updates to this post after the clouds clear!

2:30 PM October 18 – Things are getting real – My friend’s house burned down last night. 5% containment as of now and 250 firefighters are working to contain the perimeter. It’s the largest fire Boulder County has ever seen. Close to 9000 acres. Another fire just broke out in Lefthand Canyon. Sheesh!

At 4:00 AM October 19 – I could see a cluster of flames in the foothills, but they are masked by smoke and haze this morning.

8:45 AM – Twenty-six homes were lost so far. My heart and prayers go out to those displaced, during a pandemic, no less. Unbelievable. The humidity is unusually high at 92% — Colorado is a semi-arid state — and it’s a very cool 36 degrees. Both of these factors should help with containment today.

8:30 AM October 21 – The CalWood Fire is 21% contained, but it has grown to nearly 10,000 acres. The Lefthand Fire, adjacent to CalWood, is at 5% containment. I could only see two small fires in the foothills last night. So far, the wind has been a minimal factor.

The good news! A huge cold front is moving into the area with temperatures dropping into the single digits. It is supposed to snow on Friday, Sunday, and Monday. YAY!!

10:00 AM October 23 – The CalWood Fire is 55% contained and the cooler weather should help today. The Lefthand Canyon Fire is fully contained.

Click here for updates on the East Troublesome Fire out of control in Grand County.

I’ll keep an eye on the front range — visible from my house — and will continue to update this post.

What would you take with you if you had to evacuate your home?

Click for updated road closures.

Here’s an interactive evacuations map for Boulder County.

67 thoughts on “The CalWood Fire and Evacuation Plans

Add yours

    1. Me too! Thanks, John. Some aren’t that lucky. One of my friends tweeted that their house burned to the ground. They must’ve lived in the foothills. The fire still isn’t contained.


  1. Susie, so glad you’re out of danger, for now at least. I’ve had to make this decision about what to take a few of times in my head, during hurricane season. But the one time we actually did evacuate, I ended up taking very little. Important papers, computer file back-ups, laptop, dog and husband, with small bags of clothes and toiletries for a few days.

    But the risk is different with hurricanes, unless it’s a really big one…in my area, at least. Our house is most likely still going to be standing when we come back. With wildfires… yikes.

    Stay safe, lady. Hugs!!!


    1. How terrifying, Kassandra! Yes, we’re watching it carefully. Nothing has changed since last night and I can’t see it. One of my friends tweeted that her house burned down. It’s so sad!
      Thank you!


    2. How scary. Glad to hear you’re okay. But how awful about your friends house. Global warming is having a say just wish we could fix things. If it’s not too late that is. Scary old world at the moment Susie


      1. I’ll be so glad when 2020 is over! It is scary. It’s after 10:00 PM and I can still see flames from the fire in the foothills. Much smaller than Saturday. Hopefully they’ll get a handle on it soon!
        Thanks for sharing!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, Susie, that is awful. With good fortune your area will stay clear.

    A friend was telling me that some States have had their forest service budgets dramatically cut. Is that the case in Colorado?


    1. I just looked it up. Trump cut almost a billion dollars from the US Forest Service budget. GAH! It is obvious to me that global warming is having a huge effect.

      My friend tweeted that her house burned down last night. It’s devastating news. I’m keeping an eye on the fire. So far, there’s no containment and I can’t see the mountains. Maybe it will clear out later.
      Thank you, Ellen!


    1. Oh, no! The fires are so unpredictable. I have learned not to take any chances. The Calwood fire is still 0% contained, but I can’t see it. My friend’s house burned down last night. I hope she stays safe!!


    1. Exactly!

      It’s much cooler and damper today, which should help. I still can’t see the mountains and would feel better if I could see what’s going on. We had amazing views last night.

      Things are getting real – My friend’s house burned down last night. 5% containment as of now, and 250 firefighters working to contain the perimeter. Its the largest fire Boulder County has ever seen. Close to 9000 acres.


  3. Our friends in Longmont have been sending us pix and updates. So happy the morning was cooler with some drizzle.
    This one blew up in a hurry. Fingers crossed. The pictures we’ve seen from Estes and Boulder are pretty scary
    We have family in CA north/east of Sacramento – so far their winery has managed to stay safe.
    Doesn’t hurt to have a written and mental list of what to grab – things get nuts and crazy. We have bins stacked with photos and impt papers in case of evacuation for hurricanes ( which we have only done once, and probably could have stayed then – but last minute uncertain forecasts were concerning.) You always wonder about those fireproof safes…but let’s not find out.
    Keep safe – you and your little dog, too!
    (Oh, if you come across reputable local animal/livestock rescue groups collecting donations, maybe give out a shout out here?)


    1. Things are replacable, but we aren’t! It’s always better to err on the safety side of unpredictable weather and forest fires.

      I’ve done my “fire drill” and am a little more prepared for next time, although I hope I never get the chance!

      Good idea about the donations. Not seeing anything so far. I don’t think there are a lot of ranches up in the hills. My friend who has one, this side of highway 36, was going to trailer her horses just in case.

      It’s been such a shitstorm of a year! I’ll feel better when I can see the mountains. The CalWood fire is 5% contained now and they have 250 firefighters on the scene. Another fire just blew up in Lefthand Canyon. Sheesh!
      Thanks, Phil!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Kid just told me about the Lefthand fire. She may be having slumber parties with evacuating friends and kids.
        If you haven’t already done so, take your camera/phone and go take mages of every wall/ impt. drawers/cabinets and upload/download those pictures several places – just in case. Without those insurance companies pay pennies…lessons from hurricane country.
        Take care – and thanks for the updates


          1. Yeah, y’all are a real hot bed there…and ski season tourism hasn’t even started 😮
            Birthday parties for little kids are suffering with limits of attendees – and no going to party places any more. Stupid virus
            Hang in there and stay cool


    1. YES!!! It was suppsed to be sunny and warm today, but it’s still overcast and 43 degrees! I’m sure it is helping.

      I just saw an update. The fire is 5% contained at 9,000 acres with 250 firefighters working the perimeter. I know of one family, personally, who lost EVERYTHING to this fire! She posted photos of their home’s foundation on Twitter. Fire is so unpredictable and devastating. I’m praying and dancing for snow!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. So glad you are safe! Glad the wind changed. We once had our daughter leave with our dog to go across the bridge in San Diego to her boyfriend’s home so that we could have room for friends who were evacuated, four adults, three kids and three dogs… we watched the news and the fire until about 2:30 a.m., went to bed, only to have our daughter call and ask if we were ready, in the fifteen minutes we had tried to sleep, our neighborhood was next on the evacuation orders. We too were only five miles from a front. Firestorms are horrible. My thoughts and prayers are with you. No, we didn’t end up evacuating, thankfully, like you the wind switched directions and it went the other way. Stay safe. Cathi


    1. Thank you, Cathi!
      That is such a chilling story! I’ll be glad when 2020 is over. The devastation is so unbelievable yet real. I’m keeping an eye on the mountains, easy to do since I have a view of them from here. You probably read the update. Hopefully the firefighters will see some containment today. I’m saying prayers for everyone who lost their homes. They haven’t been in there to make a count, but I think it will be shocking.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m so glad you are OK but sorry to hear about your friend’s house. I would most likely take the same things as you. pictures, computers, USBs, maybe a few books but I guess books can be replaced. Important papers, passports. It would be so scary.


    1. Thanks, Darlene! I can’t wait until 2020 is OVER!
      I had a moment of sheer panic and had to stop to breathe and assess the situation. There were many families who didn’t have time to prepare before evacuating. I think the number of homes lost will be shocking. Although much smaller than Cameron Peak’s 200,000 scorched acres, at 9,000, it’s the biggest fire Boulder County has ever seen. I hope the clouds burn off so I can see what we are dealing with!


  6. It’s been a long fire season for some of us. Back in June, we dealt with the BigHorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. Here we are in October and fires continue across the western states. It will get better, but only it gets worse.


    1. So true!

      We had a freak snowstorm in September but could use a few more of them. Temperatures dropped and with unusually high humidity of 91%, the weather should help the fire battle today. As long as the wind doesn’t kick up…

      Nice to see you, Kenne!


    1. Thanks, Lisa, and for the tweet!

      I saw flames on the front side of the foothills at about 4:00 AM, but now it’s too smoky and damp to see them. It’s semi-arid here and we’re experiencing 93% humidity, which is unusual and fantastic! As long as the wind stays calm, we’ll be okay. We’re keeping our fingers crossed…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad you guys are safe. At least for now. Fires are so scary. About a year before we left California there was a fire super close to our house as well. Had the wind changed directions we’d have been in the direct path of that inferno. I had stuff packed in my car just in case, all the pets supplies in a box and handy to pack, important papers and whatnot ready to grab and go. You don’t mess around with fire. The planes with fire retardant were flying right over my house. The whole house shook they were so low to the ground. Like you, we could see the glow of flames through the thick cloud of smoke. Scary stuff.

    Stay vigilant. Stay safe.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt


  8. Eek! Very scary. I still remember the two major fires in Colorado Springs several years ago. I’m glad you’re ok and hope they get full containment soon.


  9. With fires, you barely have time to get in the car and get out. If there is a risk put what is essential or you’d hate to lose emotionally into your vehicle and keep it there. If you need to go grab pets and be gone


  10. it has been crazy, and terrifying. My sister had to evacuate from estes yesterday, so far so good, but the growth of the East Troublesome is scary. So grateful that the Boulder County fires are in much better shape now.


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