Monday was a gorgeous, warm, sunny day here as Joe and I drove to Colorado Springs to buy a truck for the business. In the late afternoon driving home we saw smoke from a small wildfire just east of Hiway 115 in the Pinyon/Juniper forest land on Fort Carson. I was concerned because it seemed to be just behind a hill by the Juniper Valley Restaurant.
Tuesday was a hot (85 degrees), windy(40 mph), low humidity (4%) critical fire danger day here and the smoke from Fort Carson continued to grow. I was having a rest and recuperate day and hadn't paid much attention to anything other than my book, when my daughter Kat called and reported that there was something on TV news about the town of Ordway in danger from a wildfire. I turned on our TV and discovered that in addition to the Fort Carson fire there was also a huge grass fire that was burning homes in and around Ordway, which is a small town slightly northeast of my home town of Fower, which is 75 miles southeast of us. The entire town had been evacuated, over 20 buildings and homes had burned and 2 volunteer firefighters had been killed.
The Fort Carson fire had jumped the hiway [this is my own preferred colloquial spelling] forcing evacuation of all the recently built large homes on large wooded lots on the west side. Hiway 115 was closed between Florence and Colorado Springs until the fire could be contained; and a fire fighting tanker airplane had also crashed near the hiway, killling the pilot.
Luckily today was much cooler, and by afternoon snow had begun falling on the Fort Carson fire helping them get it somewhat contained, without losing any structures. By evening it started raining over the Ordway fire allowing the evacuated people to come back to their homes, which in several cases had burned to the ground leaving families homeless, having lost everything they owned. The Governor visited Ordway and declared it a disaster area which will provide funds to help clean up and rebuild.
We mourn the loss of our neighbors as well as the loss of family homes and heirlooms. But, as in previous disasters to some of our small towns, people are already helping those in need and plans are being made to rebuild and go on.
It is just crazy that after having so much snow during the winter (the Arkansas snowpack is currently at 150% of normal in the mountains) that the officials are currently working on plans in case of some very possible flooding along the river if the snow melts fast later in the spring; yet here on the plains and foothills we have not had much moisture this spring and with the nearly constant winds the grass, shrubs, and trees are extremely dry leading to these terrible wildfires. This is a volatile climate here in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains (the early explorers called this land the great American desert, unfit for settlement.)
"In the world, ye will have tribulation, but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world."
Photos from the Colorado Springs KKTV Channel 11 website.