High Park Fire, 5

posted in: Current Affairs | 14

I don't usually turn on my phone as soon as it's permitted upon landing. I usually don't need to.

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This time, after a flight over the Canadian Rockies, which were absolutely lovely and, from the air, very different from the southern Rockies where I live,

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I did turn on my phone as soon as I could. It beeped at me that I had a message. My daughter had called fifteen minutes earlier to let me know that the friends who have been evacuated to our house have lost their home and barn: and, of course, everything else that was there.

Hope and smart building have not, in this case, been sufficient.

We do still hope that the one cat who remained in the house is okay. It's possible, because of how well the house was built, that she found shelter in the basement. The humane society has not found evidence that she didn't. On that hangs one more thread of possibility and optimism.

There's nothing to do or say beyond that right now.

Except to observe that I am learning more things about wildfire.

For instance, there is something called the Haines Index, which is a meteorological assessment used to analyze the potential behavior of wildfires. Quoting the Forest Service website about this tool, "The Haines Index can range between 2 and 6. The drier and more unstable the lower atmosphere is, the higher the index." Also, "This index has been shown to be correlated with large fire growth. . . ." The number 6, the highest level, indicates "High Potential (Dry Unstable Lower Atmosphere)."

The Haines Index for the area of the High Park Fire, the one near home, is at 6.

I have also learned about some new equipment being brought in to help the firefighters battling this monster. From the Inciweb site: "A (Radiometric Airborne Mapping System) RAMS unit was ordered and arrived Saturday afternoon. The radiometric imaging system, attached to the bottom of a helicopter, will provide infrared information similar to what officials have been using, with some key differences. The advantage of the RAMS unit is that it can be used during the daytime, and it can provide real time GPS coordinates for areas of identified heat. In addition it can provide information about the heat source (open flame, smoldering, buried, or diminishing heat). This information will help firefighters determine where suppression efforts should be focused."

So far, the night-time infrared flyovers have been providing some of the most useful insight into the fire's behavior. Information of that type, and of more precision, available during the daytime has got to be beneficial.

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14 Responses

  1. Deb, As I said on FB last night, I am so sorry for your friends. What a tragedy! The High Park Fire, and the other large fires burning in Colorado this summer, seem to me to be an example of the “perfect storm” of fire conditions: extreme drought drying soils, fuels, and atmosphere to tinderbox conditions, too many decades of successful fire prevention allowing natural fuels to build to dangerous levels, pine bark beetle cycles amplified by the above conditions, and too many people living in forests that can no longer be allowed to burn with regular small fires because of all of the development. Oh, and the warming and drying due to global climate change. That we can explain what’s happening doesn’t make it any less tragic, especially for your friends. May they find the support they need, and thank you for being part of that! (Don’t forget to take care of you, too.)

  2. Janice in GA

    All my sympathies to your friends who lost their home. 🙁 I’ve been worrying about y’all out there. Stay safe…

  3. Deb, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of property and I’m keeping my hopes high that the cat is still surviving.

    Let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

  4. Susan, thanks for your succinct explanation of the environmental contexts. I know what they are, of course, but my focus is different and I deeply appreciate yours here!

    Janice, thanks for your good thoughts, and Amanda, for your offers and your hopes for the cat, Mocha.

    I’ve sent Kris an e-mail with notes and good wishes, including these. What I think we can offer her most right now is love, and any practical boosts that are of immediate use: places for her 11 llamas to live are the most immediate need! In two groups (males and females separate). Some are at a ranch in Wellington and need to move; others are at The Ranch (official evac site, which needs to be cleared for a scheduled event by 6/30); one is at the CSU vet hospital because of corneal abrasions that may be a result of fire/evacuation events.

  5. My heart aches for your friends and their animals. I know you’re aching for them as well. As Susan said above, please remember to take care of yourself too.

  6. Thanks, Dina. I working on taking care of myself: am about to take a walk and clear my head. That's possible because I'm in Seattle, where the air isn't smoky (helping with Mom).

  7. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what to say except that I’m glad no one was injured.

  8. My heart goes out to your friends and all the others who have lost homes and businesses. It must be unbearably crushing. Ha, wish I could take a few of the llamas until the owners get to the point where the animals can come home. Sending the most positive vibes imaginable, filled with support and hugs and courage and endurance and connection.

  9. I am so sorry to hear that your friends lost their home and barn. It’s heartbreaking for them and the other 250 families whose homes have been lost in this fire. I’ll hold positive thoughts for Mocha – hopefully, you are right that she sheltered in the basement.

  10. Thanks so much, Caryl. We have a lot of people without homes to go back to, and thousands more who can't go to their homes, even though the structures are still standing–and don't yet know if they will still have those homes by the time the fire abates, likely this fall (although containment should happen within a month, if any luck prevails).

    All good thoughts for Mocha are so welcome.

  11. Hi Deb,
    Nice to know you are in my neighbourhood;) I was relieved to hear that you were both fine, but sorry to hear about your friends. Hope their cat turns up safe. We have flooding up this way, but my new apartment isn’t near any rivers so I am safe and so far the river at Mom and Christy’s place isn’t being too threatening.
    Cara

  12. Oh, Cara! I've been missing you! And I learned about the Nexus card, which (if I got one) might make it easier to come see you some time when we are back here. Stay dry, please.

  13. Hi, Deb–

    Might the good folks at Bijou Basin Ranch (yak fiber & yarn) have enough space (and, I guess, fencing) to help out your friends on at least a short-term basis? URL: http://www.bijoubasinranch.com/BBR_Home.htm

    They’re in Elbert, CO, probably way east of you, but if they have the pastureland, it might be worth the trouble to get the animals there.

    (Of course, I have an easterner’s view of western states. Around here, we can be across 3 or 4 states in 3 hours.)

    Ruth

  14. Ruth, I'll keep asking Bijou Basin about their situation in mind to mention as a backup, if needed. At the moment, places closer are apparently available. 

    Elbert is about 3 hours from Fort Collins. A number of Kris's llamas are older and/or rescues, with health concerns, so she would like to be closer to them. (Plus it's two trailer loads of animals to get them anywhere: probably two days of driving back and forth.) Eileen and Karl at Bijou Basin travel a lot to shows: I'm sure they have their own animals covered, but adding 11 might be a bit much!

    Great idea, though, in a pinch. And things have been pinching around here! Deb (filing the thought in case of even greater emergency)

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