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!
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!!
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?