And the Lightning Hasn’t Even Started – the Weber Fire

6pm at Casa Gardiner.  97 degrees, 5% humidity and I think of being head to toe in Nomex, 10″ heavy leather fire boots, humpin’ a 15- pound chainsaw and line gear up the gnarly side of Menefee…hats off to the firefighters out there because it.is.so.goddam.hot.  Heat stroke has to be a serious concern.

The situation is bleak.  No rain since April and nothing but chances of dry lightning in the high country for the foreseeable future.  It’s not hard to imagine why the Anasazi packed up their shit and headed somewhere else if they faced 10 straight years of this nonsense.

Fort Collins got it started with the High Park fire (now at 82,000 acres), Pagosa followed suit with the Little Sand (20,000), and now we have our very own neighborhood scorcher, the Weber Fire.  The Rocky Mountain region just hit the 200,000 milestone and it’s only June.  Colorado is a tinderbox and the burning is just going to get worse.  I’m here to cheer everyone up.

As of this evening (Sunday) the fire is within a 1/4 mile of Highway 160 but ‘in an easily defensible spot’.  Knowing the neighborhood but not having seen the fire up close it would seem they could keep the beast south of the highway but all it takes is one gust of wind to blow something hot across and it’s back to the races.

This is from Deputy Dan Bender via Pam Wilson just now.
From Dan “Here are photos I took Sunday in the subdivision(s) on Rd 46 south of the top of Mancos Hill. One area is in the Elk Stream Ranch section. None of the houses in the photos with flames as close as 80-100 feet were damaged, thanks to not only the work of the ground and air crews but also the great fire mitigation that was done by the home owners when they developed their properties. …
Dan Bender

Much to the credit of the fire crews, luck, and the proactive partnerships with the Forest Service for thinning done in Elk Springs Subdivision, no structures have been  lost yet, which is amazing when you see a towering column and know there are houses in the way.  Same with the Weber Canyon structures.  Again, solid work firefighters.

fire on Menefee Mountain, Mancos, Colorado. Not my picture so please holler at me if it is yours and you want it off this site or credit for it.

We were north for the weekend, in Ridgway and Montrose house-hunting laying in the Uncompahgre River (life support on a 95 degree day) trying to guess what the fire was doing based on the fact that from Ridgway we couldn’t see the mountains in Ouray.  The smoke was thick and the column seemed to be following us.  At one point it bent over the sun and the temperature immediately cooled by 10 degrees (the banner picture).

the IR heat perimeter as of 0300 June 26th

We spent the night in the Ridgway State Park and just gawked in disbelief as 200 little campfires were allowed to burn in the campground, surrounded by nothing but a foot of concrete and then a sea of long-cured grass and flammable tents.  Nothing like a pack of mouth-breathers, a bottle of lighter fluid and a burn ban to make a weekend exciting.  Todd left the keys in the ignition so we could get the hell out of there in a hurry.  Craziness.  Similarly, the fireworks booths are doing what I am sure is a brisk business in Montrose – with the pyrotechnic holiday season just a week away I shudder to think of the coming weeks for my Forest Service peeps.

Time will tell how this year pans out.  I noticed that there is a glimmer of hope building to the south, the red/blue bulges of moisture starting to line up in Mexico.  If we could get a hint of monsoonal moisture without all of the lightning precursors I think we’d all count ourselves very lucky.

let’s root for moisture and not electricity

Fire is nature’s way of keeping the balance.  Humans have complicated the simple nature of that reality.  But it is what it is now and all I can hope during a season like this is that people with vulnerable homes proactively take steps to protect their property and by association protect all of our friends and family out there trying to keep the beast from burning up all of your stuff.  In the meantime, firefighters, I wish you good RH recovery, cooler temps and a kick-ass caterer in camp.

that’s my honey badger chicken. she doesn’t give a shit about the fire. or that cat stalking her

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Categories: Colorado Fires 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “And the Lightning Hasn’t Even Started – the Weber Fire

  1. Yuck yuck yuck. I didn’t realize how close fires were to Durango- not again! Sending RAIN vibes your way…

    • and more bad news from Durango this morning – a BP compressor station had an explosion, killing 1 and sending 2 to the hospital. very sad. amazingly there was no incidental fire as a result.

  2. We have 3 wild fires burning within 30 miles of us here in central Utah, too. The biggest is around 40,000 acres right now and nowhere near contained. Makes me feel virtuous that we followed the fire restrictions and used our camp stove when we went camping last weekend. I would hate to think of anyone losing their homes or their lives because I was careless.

  3. Thanks Alisa for cheering me up yet again! 🙂

  4. Flew over the Woodland Heights fire last week on a stop-over, or maybe it was farther north, either way, it’s heartbreaking. Absolutely my favorite part of the country.

    • yeah, when houses burn down it gets emotional. i don’t know the situation with the Woodland Heights fire but it’s amazing to me how many people in general live in the trees with no defensible space. it’s as though the attention span of the collective conscience is handicapped with a ‘it ain’t gonna happen to ME’ mentality. many more houses are going to burn down in Colorado this summer if it doesn’t rain soon and people don’t warm up their chainsaws.

    • boy, the pictures coming out of Colorado Springs are devastating.

  5. The fire is about done thanks to some burn-out operations, line building and a much needed, brief but glorious and unexpected shot of moisture. While it didn’t add up to much, just the elevated humidity allows the firefighters to get ahead of the game. With the moisture came 114 lightning strikes (I have ways of knowing these things) – we’ll see what poofs up as a result of those over the next week…

  6. Philip Walters

    Hi, I just thought I would note that the subdivision with all the defensible space work and the Community Wildfie Protection Plan is Elk STREAM, not Springs. Elk Springs is our neighhbor to the north. I was principle author on the plan, and the phot of the house from Dan Bender is a photo of my house….Thanks for covering this in your blog!

    • Hi Phillip, thanks for clarifying the subdivisions for me and for writing in. My husband is Todd Gardiner (w/ the Forest Service/BLM) that you have interacted with in the past – if you get this and have time Monday or Tuesday, he would love to come walk your property with you. While I’m sad for the changes the fire has made in the canyon, I am so happy for you to have planned wisely and still have a home as a result. great work down there.

      • Philip Walters

        HI Alisa!

        I missed your reply way back two years ago, so I am belatedly replying. Sorry I did not get to show Todd around back then, but you are always welcome to visit! It has been interesting with the post fire changes, the floods, the weeds, all the usual fun!

        And thank you Todd for the work you did on the surrounding public lands!

        If you want to come visit, give me a call; 533-7177. I am in the book too.

  7. Devastating. Being in Colorado Springs just last March, it really struck a chord. I understand (hope) that some of bigger fires are getting under control.

    Last year during the record Texas drought, fires destroyed several state parks — and may have even doomed an already endangered species (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston_toad). Wildfires are scary stuff; during the course of a year, Texas lost 7 million acres and nearly 3,000 homes to these fires.

    • boy, the monsoons showed up right on cue this summer and brought a lot of moisture right off the bat – some years they can pack a serious electrical punch without any rain but mother nature gave us a pass this year. yes, last year was a hard one for Texas. my brother just sent me an article talking about the 20 acre fire that they had in Vermont – percentage-wise that’s got to be about the same as 7 million acres in Texas! 🙂

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