Colorado burning — again

Getting dogs and cats out out of the fire zone is one thing. Getting larger animals out is quite another. (Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
Getting dogs and cats out out of the fire zone is one thing. Getting larger animals out is quite another. Horses are trailered out, ridden out, led out, or as a last resort turned loose on the roads to fend for themselves or be picked up by volunteer rescuers. (Photo: Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

(Update, June 19, 2013 @ 10 pm MDT: The Black Forest Fire — 14,280 acres burned, 509 homes destroyed, 95% contained. Big Meadows Fire, 95% contained. Royal Gorge Fire, 100% contained.)

Several of you have been kind enough to inquire about my welfare, given the size and number of wildfires currently burning in Colorado. Rest assured we in the Denver metro are in no danger other than smoke pollution when the wind is out of the south. It is unsettling, to say the least, when we can actually smell the smoke.

At times the media make it appear that the entire state must be in flames, but you know how the media are. Still, one cannot minimize something like the Black Forest fire, where 15,700 acres have burned, 379 homes have been destroyed, and two people have died. At last report the fire, already the most destructive in state history in terms of property loss, was only 5% contained. Some 38,000 residents have evacuated, with more on standby. By comparison, the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs a year ago destroyed “only” 347 homes.

Cause of the fire has not been determined but the deaths of two people have turned it into a homicide investigation. Several reports have noted there was no lightning in the area at the time the fire started.

The Denver Post has posted an interactive map that shows the burn area, the evacuation area, and if you zoom out you can see the relative size and location of the area.

A second large fire is burning at Royal Gorge. It is 20% contained. Businesses at both ends of the famous Royal Gorge Bridge have burned but so far the famous wood-decked bridge appears relatively undamaged.

The third major fire is Big Meadows, burning in an uninhabited area of thick beetle kill in the western part of Rocky Mountain National Park. It is estimated at 330 acres with 30% containment. Lightning started the fire.

For more photos and videos, see the Denver Post gallery.

When an owner is forced to release their horses if fire threatens, some spray paint their phone numbers onto the horse in hopes of being reunited. These horses were brought to Elbert County Fairgrounds Wednesday afternoon to join about 150 other horses seeking refuge there from the Black Forest fire. Photo by Ally Marotti/The Denver Post
When owners are forced to release their horses, some spray paint their phone numbers on the animals in hopes of being reunited. (Photo: Ally Marotti/The Denver Post)

15 thoughts on “Colorado burning — again

  1. Smart to put phone numbers on the horses – given a chance they may make it to safety. The wildlife/rescue guys did a great job here reuniting livestock during TX horrid fire season one summer.
    Beetle killed trees are always a danger – we raised timber and made real effort to cut dead ones and keep brush clear – can’t do that in National forest/park lands.
    Always appreciate the updates and links.

    1. Everybody loads their dogs and cats in their cars. Horses are so skittish, out in pastures, etc. Can be so time consuming rounding them up and getting them out. Breaks my heart to think of them just being turned loose to run for their lives. But so many rescuers are willing to go back in with trailers and try to get them.

      There’s one story somewhere about a rescuer going in to get 12 (twelve!) Great Pyrenees dogs out. Successful. Mental image of all those giant dogs in a van made me smile.

  2. I’m so glad you’ve given us such level-headed perspective on this PT. I have been somewhat concerned myself and am a little embarrassed that my own issues have prevented me from looking into myself rather than just relying on CNN and the like. Still, hearing things like “the worst in the history of Colorado” and reading that you can actually smell the smoke where you live… 😯

    BTW, your “thick beetle kill” reference had me scratching my head a little, but philosophermouseofthehedge’s comment cleared that up for me! 😳

    1. Of all the fires since I moved here in 2005, this was the first time I could smell one here at home. A sobering reminder that we’re all neighbors.

      Yep, damn pine beetles are slowly destroying our forests. The dead trees are a terrible fire danger as well as a danger to hikers, since they can fall at any time. Forest Service tries to remove those that pose the most danger, but then there’s another danger. The dead, cut trees must be burned to kill the beetles. No one has developed a way to, say, spray forests from the air to kill them. They tunnel into the trees; sprays won’t reach them. There’s a niche market for beetle-kill lumber (if the cut trees are fumigated rather than burned); something about the beetles gives the wood a blue-gray color.

  3. I’m glad that you are safe, aside from the air pollution…..How awful for the horses and the owners of the horses….heartbreaking to think about…and the person who save TWELVE dogs..BIG, BIG dogs…..another hero…Stay safe xo

    1. Love that dog story. 12 of those guys is a LOT of dog! There are so many heros in situations like this, but there’s a special place in my heart for the people who’ve gotten out safely and then voluntarily go back in to rescue other people’s pets. Last night there was a 6 ft, 250 lb cowboy reduced to tears hugging his favorite horse that someone had found and rescued.

        1. And it didn’t look like some prize quarter horse either. Just a old grayish white horse with a lot of scars. Kinda matched the graying mustached cowboy. Looked like maybe they’d been through a lot together over a lot of years.

          1. It was a video. I only caught the end of it, and didn’t remember it exactly right, but it’s still worth seeing. Luckily someone put it up on YouTube:

          2. I appreciate it so much 🙂 I just got done watching another one that really moved me….the fire fighter climbing a fence and taking on the fire alone is something …

... and that's my two cents