The Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, CO came close to burning right across Colorado Springs. It has caused many different reactions and affected many. The fire affected this site, last week was only the second time since Cube Dweller Fitness launched with welcome to cube Dweller Fitness where a week passed without publishing a new article. On a small scale that shows how disruptive the Waldo Canyon Fire has been. Seeing fire charge towards your home town will spark a reaction. I found that I reacted to the Waldo Canyon Fire with awe, anger, and thankfulness.
In Awe of the Waldo Canyon Fire
As powerful as we think we are as humans there are forces beyond, well beyond, our control. The wildfires actively burning in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Utah are a perfect example. The Waldo Canyon Fire took a 30 minute run that surprised many, if not everyone involved. On Tuesday afternoon the winds shifted – a simple thing we can’t control.
I grew up in Minnesota where we spent many evenings gazing at dancing flames in fireplaces, fire pits, and even wood burning stoves. I understand the draw of watching fire burn. There is something primeval about fire, something that hints of incredible power. Normally that power is well contained. Watching the Waldo Canyon Fire was my first encounter with the unhindered power of a wildfire and I was in awe.
While at work on Tuesday afternoon the color of the sky seemed to suddenly change, it changed to a dark red overcast color. The colors in the sky made me think I was wearing my old Oakley’s with the gold iridium lenses. Everything had a surreal tint. The color came from the sunlight being filtered by the rapidly growing plume of smoke rising from the Waldo Canyon Fire. When the wind shifted it started pushing the smoke up near the front-range of the Rockies, then over the city of Colorado Springs.
Our tinted surroundings brought me out of my cubicle to see what we could see. At first we could only see a massive tower of smoke that dwarfed Pike’s Peak. But then we started to see flickers of light, flickers of flame at the top of the front-range. Those flickers grew to flames which quickly expanded. We watched in shock, horror, and awe as the Waldo Canyon Fire made its way over the top of the ridge and headed down towards the homes on the western edge of Colorado Springs.
The speed that the fire moved was hard to imagine from a distance. While we watched in awe as the flames continued to move we tried to estimate their size. We were several miles away from the fire, yet the flames were easily visible without magnification. We could see helicopters fighting the flames, but they were so small they would disappear from sight as they neared the flames. This fire was huge.
As time went on we heard how the experienced fire fighters on that ridge were out run by the fire six times in twenty minutes. That simple statement still shocks me. These men run towards fire when others flee, yet this fire exceeded their estimation. They would setup to battle, then discover the fire had jumped past them. To ensure their own safety they would move to a new location then setup to battle the flames. Six times they had to shift.
That simple shift in winds was fueling the Waldo Canyon Fire to progress at amazing speeds. We heard that the fire would literally leap over 1/4 of a mile at a time. The wind would pick up burning embers then drop them over 1/4 mile downwind into dry fuel to ignite a new leading edge of the fire.
The fire progressed so quickly that many people had a difficult time evacuating their homes. They too watched in awe as the fire raced toward their homes while they tried to pick up the essentials, their most valued possessions, before leaving their homes for what could be the last time.
Time Lapse Video of the Waldo Canyon Fire
Check out this video of the fire over a five day period. It shows how fast it came down the hillside.
Anger Sparked by the Waldo Canyon Fire
My heart is torn thinking of the families evacuated, displaced, and affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire, but more than that I found myself burning with anger. I didn’t get angry at the fire, nor at the growing number of people valiantly fighting the fire, I grew angry at people who were taking advantage of the situation.
Angry at looters. What type of person would enter an area that was forcibly evacuated to steel from the affected families? What type of person would kick someone when they are down? Really. There are people in my city who are sick enough to see opportunity when others are fleeing for their lives. There are people in my city who would willingly sneak past guarded borders, break into homes, and steel valuables.
While I am not a violent man, these people sparked an emotion I rarely feel. These people sparked a raging feeling of anger.
As the Waldo Canyon Fire continued and people were unable to return to their homes the stories of theft continued. Thieves turned to hotels filled with evacuees where they broke into cars. Those cars held the few possessions that families thought were their most precious items, those items they would not want to live without. My guess is most of those items each carry more emotional value then monetary value, but that could just be based on my own list of items I would grab from our home.
Who would steel from these families torn from their homes? The anger stirring in me makes me feel like they deserve a fate harsher than the blacked hillside left after the raging fire.
Overcome with Thankfulness during the Waldo Canyon Fire
There is one feeling that out weighs both my feeling of awe and anger, that is thankfulness. While the scale of the Waldo Canyon Fire is smaller than several other current wildfires, it’s proximity to the city of Colorado Springs made it the top priority for fire fighters across the nation. A team was brought in to manage and oversea the battle and they did an amazing job. Even when they were peppered with idiotic questions, like why the weather satellites were not being used to extinguish the fire, or when they were verbally attacked by stressed out homeowners, they responded with a calmness rarely displayed.
The team managed people from over eight different agencies and reaching a peak of nearly 1,600 people. These people ran towards the fire to protect people and valuable property. The fire fighters deserve the outcry of thankfulness. I will say as we’ve traveled near the area it was great to
The Waldo Canyon fire consumed more than 18,247 acres and was fought by nearly 1,600 fire fighters from across the nation. I am very thankful for all those who fought this and other wildfires.
Reacting to the Waldo Canyon Fire
The power of natural forces like those of a wildfire are truly amazing. A simple change in wind direction can change the course of life easily. There are 346 families who lost their homes in Colorado Springs. I’m still amazed that with that amount of damage there were only two deaths attributed to fire. I morn for those who have lost loved ones, lost their homes, lost their jobs, or lost their sense of peace and security from this fire. It has affected lives in ways that will take time to heal.
But time does heal.
Thank you for everyone involved in fighting these wildfires. And thank you to the staff at The Gazette for keeping us all updated. The images above came from their coverage of the fire.