This is a shot from my favorite webcam view of downtown Denver. I’ve posted it before. But that’s not a cloud bank on the horizon. It’s smoke.
There’s a big fire up there, in the foothills west of Boulder. And I’ve been watching local TV coverage of it since before lunch (lots of photos and videos on the website). My brother’s house is up there, in the mountains, about a mile south of the fire. So far the wind has worked in his favor, but if the fire starts moving south, it only has to get over one big ridge to get to his place. I’ve spoken to him once, very briefly, as he was rushing to leave. Knowing him, he’ll go just far enough to be safe, then ask what he can do to help fight the fire. He’ll be busy, wherever he is, so I won’t try calling again for a while. Besides, I’ve always assumed no news is good news. Bad news finds you soon enough without your looking for it.
It seems like just last month when his house was threatened by a different fire in the same area, although it’s actually been 20 years or so. Two tanker planes have flown in from out of state and are waiting for the wind to drop so they can go in and start dropping fire retardant. This morning the winds up there were gusting to 65 mph. They’ve dropped to about 20 mph now and are expected to drop more by dark. Some 200 homes in the area have been evacuated, and there are some very pricey subdivisions in danger.
The fire, referred to as the Fourmile Canyon fire, has spread over approximately 2,200 acres so far, and one fire truck has been lost. No surprise, really. I’ve driven up the road where the fire started, and I can’t imagine a worse place to try to fight a fire. The canyon is so deep and so steep and rocky, it would be very difficult to walk/climb up out of it. The road is narrow, dirt, winding, and steep, with thick woods and undergrowth very close to the road. It feels claustrophobic, even on a bright, sunny day, and I was glad to get out of there. There’s no natural water supply in the area, either, just to complicate things. It’s been hot and dry for weeks and the relative humidity today is 7%.
I can see and occasionally smell the smoke from my house, maybe 20 miles from the fire as the crow flies, and shifting winds this evening are expected to carry the smoke and ash south and east across the metro area. They expect greater Denver to be shrouded in smoke by morning.
10 pm update: Reports now say more than 1,000 homes have been evacuated and more than 3,500 acres have burned. More air tankers have arrived in the area and at dawn there will be at least 9 — possibly as many as 14 — planes in the air doing slurry drops.