As my wife was driving home Sunday afternoon, she spotted what appeared to be smoke behind a ridge near our house. It was a very hot day, and there were scattered summer-time clouds around, so it was hard to tell if it was really smoke or just a low-lying cloud. She called 911 to report it, and was told that there hadn’t been any other calls about it.
Malcolm and I loaded up the camera, binoculars, and made a quick stop for fuel before going to check it out. Once we got far enough away from the mountains to see it well, we couldn’t decide for sure whether it was smoke or a cloud. We headed back into the mountains to get a closer look.
We headed in the direction of Indian Creek and Rampart Range Road thinking we’d get a good look at it from there. No dice, so we continued down to the South Platte and towards Deckers. Still couldn’t get a good read on what was going on.
We pressed onward thinking it would be just a couple miles south of Deckers. Nope.
After a while we were traveling through the burned out area from the Hayman Fire in 2002 (Colorado’s largest recorded fire @ 138,000 acres).
We could at least tell that it was smoke now, but didn’t seem to be getting any closer. It was like chasing the end of a rainbow.
We made a stop in Woodland Park to grab some food and pull up a map to see what our options were. We headed west.
It looked like an entire mountain was being consumed.
We got to the closest access point just as the media people were getting set up after over 90 minutes of drive time. My wife had spotted and called on a fire that was over 50 miles and 3 counties away as the crow flies!
Soon after that, the first of the bucket-toting heli’s made an appearance.
For a minute, I thought these pelicans might scoop up some water and help out, too.
Several homes and cabins were being threatened.
At one point, a slurry bomber banked hard and headed right for us. I wondered if it would dump its load where we were standing. Malcolm said, “Prepare to be retarded.” The surroundings were grim, but I gotta say that cracked me up.
We watched for a couple of hours while a total of 4 heavy tankers, a few single-engine tankers, and 3 helicopters did their best to contain the blaze.
While it was sad to see the forest burning, it was neat to have a front-row view of the firefighting operations.