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.
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.
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).
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.
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.