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My Hometown is Burning

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I'm from Colorado Springs originally. My parents moved there when I was 4, and I lived there until I was 28. Colorado Springs isn't a big city, nor is it a small town, though it was a lot smaller when I was growing up.

In the school years, my friends and I used to dream of moving away. Maybe we would go some place exciting and glamorous like LA. Or maybe go some place cosmopolitan like New York. It seemed like almost anywhere would be better than where we were. We just thought that COS was boring. Nothing exciting ever happened there.

When I moved to Seattle, I went there without ever having visited first. My life had fallen apart, and I figured if there were ever a chance for me to get out of there, that would be the best time to do it. Blank slate. Go to a town where no one knew me, and couldn't make judgments about who I was based on who I had been. But I would have to do it on my own. No family or old friends to run to if things got tough.

And that really was the best thing for me. Being an only child, I was often sheltered. I was protected and made safe. But I never really knew who I was, and what I could do, until I had to stand on my own. When my life had fallen apart, I either crawled out fighting, or I stayed there and withered.

I moved to Seattle because I had to. Those moments when I discovered sides of me that had always been there were immeasurable. I discovered I'm someone who loves to hike mountains. I never learned to ski in Colorado because I didn't have the money. I would be too chicken spit to kayak the Colorado rapids, but I loved sea kayaking. These were things I could have done in CO, but I learned to do in WA. Perhaps I never thought of it because I grew up with the Rockies, and took them for granted. They had always been there. They would always be there, in my mind.

But every time I went back to Colorado, it always felt like 'home'. It felt comforting and familiar. Even as things changed, it still felt the same. Even if I had been away, I could remember a dozen different roads, like an ant trail.

Colorado is pretty lucky in terms on natural disasters. We don't have earthquakes, tsunamis (that would be something else!), or hurricanes. The tornadoes only happen on the eastern plains, which is basically Kansas. But now I know what people who go through these disasters must feel.

I'm looking at pictures, and it takes my breathe away. These are pictures where I am connected. I recognize the landmarks as I recognize the back of my hand. I grew up with it. It had always been there.

What's particularly significant about this picture is you can see the mountain scarring from the strip mining a long time ago, from the 70s I believe. Notice how very little of it has healed over. I dread to think how long it will take the forests to recover from this fire.

When I visited Mt St Helens in Washington, I was speechless. There was an abrupt wasteland of a barren, treeless landscape. I wonder if my Colorado will look the same once this is over. Will I even recognize her?

The fire has spread way too close to where my family and friends are. They aren't in immediate danger, but they can't open windows because of the smoke. This is particularly bad because Colorado has been getting 100 degree weather, and not everyone has air conditioning.

My parents aren't in the immediate evac zone, but it's a lot closer than I'd like. Only 13 miles now. This is one of the times when I feel the distance between Georgia and Colorado. I feel so helpless, because I can't help them if they needed it.
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  • no profile photo CD7567060
    Oh poor babies! Stupid fishermen. Like their fishing hobby is more important than people having water to drink. emoticon

    CO has had snow all right. Every year. But in such small amounts. When we first moved there 15 years ago there was a big blizzard in my town and my university town was flooded. About 5 years later there was another blizzard that collapsed roofs of supermarkets and gas stations. Since then? Barely anything. Two winters ago the best snowfall would stick around for maybe two or three days with maybe an accumulated foot at the very most. Mostly it was just super cold and dry.

    I know what you mean about carrying lotion and chapstick everywhere. God forbid I forget either. I'd have to go to any nearby store to buy more if I was dumb enough to forget it. Bath and Body Works is probably one of the most successful businesses in the whole state! Lol One day I went to work and forgot my chapstick. I went one day without it and it looked like I was wearing red lipstick. Good grief it was painful!
    3171 days ago
    Colorado always has been dry, but recent years have been especially so. A few years back, one of the reservoirs was drained for city water use because of lack of rain. There were a lot of fishermen who were upset, saying it was their favorite fishing spot, but that's what a reservoir is for...

    My skin always crack when I visit there, and I have to keep lotion and lip balm in my purse. I never need to use it in Georgia.

    Glad you are having a nice time in Denver!
    3171 days ago
    I am in Denver right now and i have to say this a beautiful place. My heart goes out to eberyone dealing with this. It has been hot out here and no humidity which we aren't used to. It did rain for a little bit today but not nearly long enough. Praying that the get rain out here and soon.

    3171 days ago
    GETSTRONGRRR: The weather can change quick out there! It's still plenty cold in the winter, but no snow in recent years. Colorado's water supply depends on the snow melt. And when there isn't any...well...trouble.

    Right on the money about the 'get out of town' kit. I told them to get their medications and documents ready. I said to start taking pictures around the house for insurance purposes. Fortunately, the winds were cooperative today and it didn't spread much today. Yesterday was so shocking because it spread so rapidly, it caught everyone by surprise.

    CATLADY52: Yes, it's a very frustrating feeling, wanting to do something, but helpless to just wait and see. I donated to the Colorado Red Cross today to aid those brave men and women fighting the fire.

    MILLISMA: Thank you for the well wishes. A YMCA near my parents is being used as an evac shelter, so they must consider that the safe end of town. I have some friends, though, who are much closer. They had good luck with the weather today, so it hasn't spread further. Bless those firefighters.
    3171 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/28/2012 7:49:38 AM
  • no profile photo CD5575543
    Any kind of fire can be bad given the right circumstances. I think that what is needed now is cooler weather (a fire can create it's own weather) and seven days of light rain. emoticon emoticon
    All anyone can do is pray.
    3171 days ago
    Funny, I was just out there 3 weeks ago and really enjoyed the cool spring weather.

    Real sorry to hear about your family there....keep in touch with them often...probably wise for you to have them prepare "get out quick bags"....tough as it is, you may need to be the calm collected one, especially if they are elderly.
    3171 days ago
    I have been watching the news since I have friends in CO and the devastation is so sad. Hope your parents remain safe.
    3172 days ago
    I saw a funnel cloud once in COS, but it never touched down. In the years I lived in COS and Denver, I never saw or heard of any except out in Limon. Maybe there were others, but I recall the Limon tornadoes being the bad ones, or perhaps the only that our local news covered. I can't speak about recent years, I haven't lived in CO in almost 10 years.

    But the weather is very different than when I grew up. I remember 6 foot snow drifts and blizzards. They were fun as a kid, and a pain in the butt as a teenager shoveling the driveway. I haven't seen a snowfall like the ones when I was a kid. Last Thanksgiving my husband made a joke to me that it never snows in Colorado. It hasn't been snowy any time he's been there (which I was thankful for, but it should snow when I'm not there - lol).

    CO always had variable temps, but 5 days straight of 100 degree temps...I don't remember that in the two decades I lived there.

    Fires everywhere this year. Best wishes for your friends and family.
    3172 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/27/2012 8:12:16 PM
  • no profile photo CD7567060
    I moved from SoCal to CO when I was 15 and, although I adjusted to it, I did so grudgingly. My family still lives there, between Denver and Colorado Springs but I moved away last year and have always thought of it as an escape. My family isn't so close to any of the fires THIS time but the air around their home is thick with smoke from the fire near the Springs. I went to university in Fort Collins and lived there for about 10 years so I'm mainly worried about the fire up there even though it's 55% contained.

    But honestly I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say the tornadoes are only on the eastern plains. DIA gets lots of tornadoes and when I was in high school tornadoes were sighted just south of Denver about 15-20 miles north of us. Then the last couple years the tornadoes even hit down in the north near Fort Collins and Greeley. That was unheard of before but it happens now.

    I never knew what life in CO was like without droughts and nasty temps. This summer seems to be the worst though. Other people have mentioned their weather changing as well though. My dad suggested global warming.
    3172 days ago
    My concern is mainly after viewing the devastation from Mt St Helens, but you're right. The heat from the pyroclastic blast from Helens was magnitudes higher than a forest fire. It incinerated everything alive - trees, animals, and top soil biomass. The landscape is recovering very, very slowly.

    Strip mining is a rape against the mountains. Fortunately, after the mountain scarring in the 70s, regulations were put in place preventing any further strip mining in areas where it is important to COS tourist industry. Unfortunately, certain political parties are trying to dismantle these regulations.

    The landscape in CO recovering depends a lot on rain. Much the same as it depends on getting the fire contained to begin with. =/ My best friend said the firefighters are estimating they won't be able to get this contained until July 17.
    3172 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/27/2012 1:34:10 PM
    Hang in there. emoticon

    I'm concerned about some friends, colleages, and my brother and his family too - they all live in Ft. Collins.

    I might be able to allay one of your fears somewhat, however. Strip mining and fires are two very different forms of disturbance to an ecosystem.

    Fires burn the standing biomass (dead or alive) and generally leave it on the surface. Mudslides can rearrange it, but it's still pretty much there and ready for regeneration.

    Strip mines are different because they completely remove the topsoil, unless the people who did the mining were very conscientious. The stuff down below topsoil is like a virgin volcanic eruption - no biomass, just minerals. So areas that are strip mined take a LOT longer to recover.

    Here's just one reference I pulled up that supports this - they're talking about sand mining here, but the same principles apply.

    3172 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/27/2012 1:25:36 PM
    This isn't a brush fire (at least, not all of it), it's a forest fire. Harder to do controlled burns. We had an extremely dry and warm winter, spring and start of summer. Doing controlled burns would have been very hazardous.
    3172 days ago
    Unfortunately, controlled burns are very hazardous in Colorado due to the extreme arid conditions and high winds in the mountains. There was a controlled burn just a few years ago that went out of control, and the decision was made to stop them.

    The situation in CO has gone out of control because they've been in a 10 year drought. Snowfall was nearly non existant in COS this year, so there is almost no moisture in the ground or vegetation to begin with. They've also had a terrible pine beetle infestation that has left a lot of dead trees, that are pure kindling.

    There are reports there might be a thunderstorm later today, but that might not be a good thing. Rain would be good, but more wind and lightning is not. :(
    3172 days ago
    Many, many hugs. I have a friend that lives there and have been freaking out right along with her. It's so scary how fast this fire has grown and hit the town. The fact that it's so hot and dry isn't helping things, either. :(

    Been sending lots of prayers to the folks that live there and to the fire fighters who are working around the clock to get it under control... also thowing in an extra prayer for a steady rain with no wind or lightning to come along.
    3172 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/27/2012 12:38:02 PM
    I wish they would realize that controlled burns would keep this kind of thing under control better than trying to put out every brush fire that starts. After decades of fire suppression, any fire is a disaster because the fuel has built up. If the wilderness burns frequently, like it did before people decided they knew better, fires are generally a minor disruption.
    3172 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5198989
    Several years ago Yosemite burned in a lot of places. We've been there several times since and new growth is going on. It's not fun watching fires burn around our loved ones, but fires are sometimes necessary for new growth. Acorns break open due to the high heat of fires. I hope God gives you peace.
    3172 days ago
  • no profile photo CD9136158
    Is looking at the weather Gods looking down on denmark and asking our dear maker to send some of the rain we are having over to your town.. We have had more than enough and are willing to share.

    emoticon emoticon
    3172 days ago

    Comment edited on: 6/27/2012 12:05:40 PM
    Saying a prayer for your loved ones in CO.
    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    3172 days ago
  • MYTURN11
    I have been watching the reports of these fires and I hope your family and friends remain safe. This is all so very sad.
    3172 days ago
    I've been watching the reports from the news. It's just frightening how bad those fires are not only in Colorado, but across many Southwestern states like New Mexico and Arizona.

    Hopefully, many of these burned areas will be able to recover. Do a google search for Yosemite. There was a terrible fire there in 1988. Rangers were worried those burned areas would never bounce back, but they did. Some fires can help.

    Hopefully, things will get better soon.

    3172 days ago
    LINDAKAY228: Thank you for your comment. That is a very interesting point about the flooding due to the lack of trees, oh dear. Best wishes to you down there in NM for the summer.

    CTTAGENT: Thank you, I hope they get a good turn of events soon.

    NICHOLE_4: Colorado Springs is very uniquely Rocky Mountain beautiful. I hope it will recover quickly.
    3172 days ago
    Living in New Mexico we also deal with the fire threats all the time. It's so sad to see on the news what is happening around Colorado Springs. I was there once a number of years ago and it was so beautiful. I was actually born outside of Denver but we left there when I was young. It's heartbreaking to see areas we love so much burning like that. We've had major fires here this year too and now the threat is that once the rains start flooding is a major concern as a lot of brush, shrub, grass, etc that slows down the flow of water is gone. My sympathy to you, your parents, and all those who are affected so badly by the fire. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone.
    3172 days ago
    DDOORN: I agree. But unfortunately, the time to get serious about it was back in the 70s. Climate change is a rolling boulder. It takes decades to change something that massive. It is going to be painful.
    3172 days ago
    Our country has much to learn about respecting our land and climate change is going to visit some *serious* learning on us whether we like it or not!

    3172 days ago
    I am so sorry to hear what is happening. I hope they get it under control soon.
    3172 days ago
    I've gotten the most up to date info from Twitter. And yeah, FB is a valuable tool, too.
    3172 days ago
    The amazing thing to me is the era that we live in. I get current reporting on the situation from friends on Facebook. I know that they, personally, are safe because they're posting statuses. This would be more nerve wracking without social media, as it would feel like a lot of dead air.
    3172 days ago
    I've been really freaked out about the fires this summer. The fire near Ft. Collins is in familiar territory (we like to hike and camp up that way), and the images from the Springs last night blew me away. We've got fire behind the Flatirons now, and the house smells like a campfire. It's unreal. I hope your family and friends stay safe.
    3172 days ago
    I love Colorado Springs! This is just soooooooooooo sad!
    3172 days ago
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