It Wouldn’t Happen Here!
By: Carl Chinn
Here in Colorado Springs the High-Park fire in Ft. Collins seemed a long way away. With the fire 150 miles to our north, we were irritated by the smoke. Prevailing thoughts were of wishing they would get it put out so our eyes would stop itching. The number of homes destroyed up there was tragic for them; “100 or so” had been lost.
It was far from us.
Then on Saturday 6/23/12 we heard of a new fire just west of Colorado Springs – in Waldo Canyon – an area where my wife typically hikes every week. So this was a little closer, and the smoke was a lot more irritating. As I visited a customer site on Tuesday afternoon around 2:00 PM, I saw many people photographing the C-130 tankers dropping fire retardant, and helicopters dumping Bambi-Buckets of water on the hills above us. It seemed to be about 2 miles away, with hundreds of firefighters between it and the homes (not to mention the constant flow of aerial protection efforts).
So it still seemed far from Colorado Springs as I (and most others) went about our busy schedules.
A little after 4:00 that afternoon, I was headed east (away from the fire) towards another customer site. Something caught my eye in the mirror, and I saw flames on our side of the mountain slopes. It seemed to be sliding down the mountain with the horrifying flames twice the height of the big pines it was exploding in its raging descent down the slope. The fire had produced it’s own weather, creating near hurricane-force winds, pushing it east down the mountain and towards Colorado Springs at 65 MPH. That sounds impossible to you reading it, and it looked just as impossible as we saw it.
The dragon was attacking.
I came out of that customer’s site about 5:10 PM and our world had changed. The parking lot I had just parked in an hour earlier now seemed like night due to the heavy smoke roaring over the entire region. As I drove away with my lights on, I saw all the parking lot and street lights with photocells were on as it seemed the sun was setting.
It had come to our town. And it was big and angry. As the night went on I heard of 3 church’s, and 6 Para-church ministries in it’s path where I had spoken on the importance of incident readiness over the last few years. Then I began getting e-mails from friends displaced. Some of those friends I have written of by name in my book – members of our church security team.
As I wrote this on Saturday 6/30, the number of homes destroyed was at 346. Surprisingly there have only been two deaths discovered. For an extraordinary time lapse history of the fire capturing the Tuesday rage see the 16-minute video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBA7eHY022k
Think About it:
- As with any major disaster, things occur that impact people and businesses in a far reaching area, in ways many haven’t thought of before.
- Our daughter (a fire-fighter in another jurisdiction) was called into the Waldo Canyon fire response team when it raged into town. Her crew evacuated a rest-home as the fire actually made it to the property as they were evacuating.
- Church and Para-Church ministries were evacuated all throughout the area. They had less than 10 minutes to clear their buildings and get everyone out. In the days that followed, many ministries and churches with unoccupied offices invited their evacuated friends to come and set up operations until they could return to their properties. Some of those ministries (like Focus on the Family) were well equipped to bring them in and support them immediately. It was a remarkable display of ministries helping other ministries.
- Some churches had already set up their sites as potential shelters. One church I am close to was in the midst of their preparations with the area Emergency Operations to designate their church as an emergency shelter when they too were evacuated out of the fire zone. Now they know first-hand how important it is for people and businesses to have a place to go.
- The Burlington-Northern coal trains came to a stop and backed up the tracks both ways – south to Texas and north to Wyoming. The tracks went right through the evacuation zones.
- When it’s somewhere else, it might be “300 or so” homes lost. When it’s your community, churches, friends and family -- it is 346. As I said in March -- Cancer, domestic abuse, business failure, divorce, tornadoes, tsunamis and the need for security are the kind of things many of us didn’t care about until they hit us personally. Then we learn all about it.
- It can and does happen here.