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Colorado fires

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 
Today a fire started about 5 miles away from my house. At first it was just a little fire that started from one of the coal seams that runs underneath the surface around here. It's actually quite common for the coal to burn for years underground with no signs, other than no vegetation grows in that area. There's a mountain by me that's got a coal seam running through it that's been burning for 30 years.

Well, this time the earth gave way to the hot coals underneath, and this sparked a fire out by the dump. We had high winds all day today, and that caused the fire to spread... rapidly. The next thing we knew, the area right underneath 'Storm King Mountain' ~ yes, that's the same infamous mountain that burned 10 years ago and took the lives of 14 firefighters ~ was up in flames. The fire had jumped the river and the Interstate!

My home was never at risk, but thousands of others are still in danger. A little while ago, there was a knock on my door... a dear friend was standing there in shock.... he just watched his house burn down on T.V. The Interstate was closed, so he couldn't get home. Thank GOD his girlfriend was able to get to the house, get the 2 dogs and the cat and get out before the fire hit. He's staying with some friends a couple of houses away, and just came by to let me know he's 'safe'.

There are rumors that the Chevy and Ford dealerships may be burning now, as well as the brand new community center they just finished a couple of months ago. I have no idea if it's true or not, and probably won't until tomorrow. (It's late Saturday night here now.)

Our place of business is well away from the danger area, but there are many businesses and so many residences where the fire is burning right now, and I know a lot of people with homes there. I'm so scared for them, and I hope they're heeding the evacuation notices! I hope they get their pets and get out. Material posessions just aren't worth risking your life for.

I know I'm rambling, I'm just in shock... thanks for listening!
post #2 of 63
How terrible! I am so sorry its so bad there. I'm glad to hear you are ok, and your house wasn't threatened. I hope they are able to get it under control and keep everone safe.
post #3 of 63
OMG!!! How awful!!! I am glad to hear you are safe, but I feel so bad for your friend who watched his own house burn down on TV...my prayers are with them! Is this anywhere near Littleton? My brother lives there!!! And my nephew and x-sister-in-law live in Lakewood!!
post #4 of 63
What a tragedy! How awful for your friend to see his own home burn! How awful for the whole community. I hope the fire can be brought under control before it spreads any farther. What a problem for the fire department to fight a fire both above and below the ground. I hope the state or federal government comes to your aid with manpower and help with the rebuilding. Keep safe. God bless all of you.
post #5 of 63
I just saw a blurb on it on the news, it looked so horrible. There is nothing I can do but add to the prayers already going for the families affected from this. I hope they are able to contain it soon. I have never even heard of a coal seam before.
post #6 of 63
Thread Starter 

The Denver Post has some pretty scary pictures of the fire looming over the city before it actually hit, along with a fairly well written story. I don't have any further information.... this is all I know. I don't even know if the Interstate is opened back up! I need to check around.

Daniella, amazingly, the hospital reported no injuries... not even smoke inhalation! That's just so unheard of, but one thing to be thankful for.

Debby, no, it's well away from Littleton. I'm on the 'other side of the mountain'. So I'm sure your brother is safe from this particular fire, thank goodness!

Jeanie, Federal Aid was approved last night when the fire started burning homes. I just really hope our communities pull together and we can get some money to people like my friend who lost everything but his pets and his Chevy truck. He has no clothes... and all us women know how much a wardrobe costs! I'm sure at least one of the banks will set something up. They're really good about that.

Hissy, I'm surprised you saw it on the news! I can't get any info on the news here. It's quite frustrating! I knew of the coal seams, but not that they could break through the surface... I guess it makes sense, though.
post #7 of 63
How scary, but glad you're ok. As much as we try to control our environment, we are always at the mercy of nature. I remember when I was a kid, there were coal fires in a town here in Pennsylvania. I don't think they put as many people in danger, though. I hope all goes well for you, and they get the fire under control soon.
post #8 of 63
According to the National Weather Service and the Forest Service, its going to be a bad wildfire year. There have been too many dry years and not enough clearing of old-growth and underbrush. This has provided more fuel for these fires and they burn so hot, it sterilizes the soil. At the University of Arizona Tree Ring Lab, they analyze the rain, drought and fire patterns, going back a couple of centuries. They've shown that letting some fire burn out, naturally is better than putting them out. These "natural" fires, actually make the soil better. The Forest Service has got to quit caving in to the Sierra Club and eco-terrorists who value trees, more than humans. In the long run, they're harming the wilderness areas far more than the general public are.
post #9 of 63
Cindy, I believe that environmentalists are very much interested in people. Trees provide oxygen; that's why the concern about the rain forest. Also, when man interferes with the natural balance of things he usually causes irreparable harm. If the EPA and Sierra Club made the error of stopping small fires-which do enrich the soil-you can be sure they will correct their actions. I am not a scientist and I know about fires being good for the forest, so I'm sure they know by now. The reason I care about the environment is so that our grandchildren and their children will HAVE a future, not because I love trees more than man. I am very grateful for the beauty of nature, however. I see it as proof that we have a loving God.
post #10 of 63
Thread Starter 
I think this is more along the lines of what Cindy means (correct me if I'm wrong...)

From the Denver Post:

By Rick Cables

Sunday, June 09, 2002 - One hot, windy Saturday in May 1996, while I was supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel national forests, an abandoned campfire
near Buffalo Creek escaped its fire ring, rose to the treetops and ran 10 miles before nightfall. It consumed most of 12,000 acres. People were evacuated and homes were destroyed.

During that tragic Buffalo Creek fire, I spoke with displaced families who had gathered in the community building at Buffalo Creek. Soon after, summer rains pounded the blackened landscape resulting in flooding and loss of life and property. The community building was washed away. Black water from the runoff poured from faucets in many Denver homes. Unfortunately Buffalo Creek wasn't a one-time event. We have seen similar fires over and over on the Front Range, including the Hi Meadow fire in 2000, as well as the Snaking, Black Mountain, Schoonover and Iron Mountain fires this spring.

And, regrettably, there will be more. An aggressive attempt to suppress wildfire over the past century has allowed forests to become overcrowded with live trees, brush and dead wood. There are more trees in the ponderosa pine forests now than ever before. The treetops are touching each other. Now a wildfire can jump into the treetops and the resulting fast-moving crown fire can consume everything in its path.

Fire is not an unnatural occurrence in ponderosa and lodgepole pine forests. For thousands of years lightning has ignited wildfires, and they burn naturally until the terrain and the weather allow them to burn out. Periodic low-intensity fires that stay near the ground consume dead and dying trees, logs and brush, but naturally thin the forest and leave most of the live trees unharmed. These forests have a remarkable ability to resist the damaging effects of wildfire. Each tree has more room, more moisture and can remain healthy for decades.

There is a lot of agreement that our forests are in an unnatural and unhealthy state. The question is: What do we do about it? One option is to do nothing. This would allow forests to remain in an unhealthy condition and virtually guarantee continued high risk for devastating wildfires. Some folks believe this would be "nature's way" and we should let nature take its course. I do not agree. Nature did not create the overstocked, unhealthy forest conditions we now have. Allowing a wildfire to rage in an unnaturally dense forest does not meet my definition of natural. The risk to lives, property and clean water is too great. We simply should not adopt a do-nothing strategy. Another option is to take aggressive steps to put our forests in a more natural condition. In forests along the Front Range, this means removing trees, either by cutting them, prescribed burning or in some cases both. The natural forest condition we try to re-create is healthier and is far more resistant to catastrophic wildfire or insect and disease outbreaks. Prescribed burns are planned to intentionally burn areas of the forest under specific predetermined weather conditions so that the dangerous fuel is consumed, but the remaining forest is unharmed.

Another way to reduce the number of trees and dangerous fuel is to mechanically thin the forest. That means trees must be cut down and hauled away. Sometimes, if trees have value for lumber or firewood, they can be sold to offset the cost of thinning. Other times they are simply piled and burned, a costly project. I saw where the raging Buffalo Creek fire hit areas that had been previously prescribed burned and thinned. The fire lay down on the ground and the damaging effects subsided. More important, the fire's progress slowed and firefighters could aggressively attack the fire. The same thing happened on the Hi Meadow fire near Pine. I am very proud of all the firefighters who have worked so hard to safely suppress wildfires this spring. Please be careful and heed local restrictions. There will be more fires, however, despite our best efforts. The condition of the forest plays a huge role in the amount of damage and loss we can expect.

Rick Cables of the U.S. Forest Service is Rocky Mountain regional forester, covering Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota and portions of Kansas and Wyoming.
post #11 of 63
Fire is very scary indeed. I can not imagine having it come so close to the house. When we get the Santa Ana Winds we sometimes get fires in the hills, but the hills are far away for me anyway. I hope your business is safe.
post #12 of 63
Another problem, with the loss of forest, is erosion. Southeast of us, in the Chiricahua Mts., there is an 80-foot-deep arroyo. This was caused by a huge, hot-burning fire in 1985. This was another case where the soil was sterilized and nothing grew back. The fire that burned, the past three weeks, took out 30,500 acres. Fortunately, no homes or businesses were burned. The businesses, on Mt. Lemmon were hit hard, though. The mountains won't reopen, until next Friday. People will be allowed to stop at four overlooks and the village of Summerhaven. All picnic areas and campgrounds will be closed, until we get rain. Our rainy season is July-August. The firefighters who came from all over the country did a wonderful job. In my opinion, $11.00 an hour isn't nearly enough, for what they do. Fortunately, there were only minor injuries and no deaths.
post #13 of 63
Jin - I saw it on our news in Toronto! I am glad that you are safe and I pray that it stays that way! I hope that people can rebuild and move on. My prayers are with everyone there.
post #14 of 63
Your town was in my prayers last night. I hope you look here soon and can tell us how it is going.
post #15 of 63
Thread Starter 
Holy, cow, the whole state is on fire! (The governor even said so himself!) There's the Coal Seam Fire (the one by me), the Hayman Fire (closer to Denver) and then a bunch of other fires I don't know the proper names of ~ a few by Grand Junction, a big one in Durango, I saw a map of Colorado this morning on the news with little fire icons dotted all over it. It's amazing.....

The Coal Seam Fire is still out of control, and I'm having a tough time getting any information on it.

The Hayman Fire is still out of control, and I think still growing!

I hope and pray that no lives will be lost, and that no more homes will be lost, either.
post #16 of 63
Jin - I was really hoping that the Coal Seam fire wasn't affecting you. It was upgraded to a Level 1 fire, meaning highest priority and danger. I still hope you and your business stay safe. It is terrifying that so many people are displaced and losing their homes and livelihoods. The whole recreation centered mountain economy has already taken a big hit with the low snowfall and Sept. 11. Now with the worst fire season that anyone can remember, no one is going up there for the summer season, either.

The Hayman Fire is just south of the Denver Metro area. We were covered with smoke and ash all of yesterday. The sunlight was coming through orange. It was very surreal. The winds have shifted enough today that it isn't that bad in Denver today, but the fire is still going strong. They said yesterday it was burning up to 500 acres per hour. This one was started by some idiots who had an illegal campfire. It burned at least 30,000 acres in 24 hours. If you are interested in more detailed information, check out www.9news.com. They have really good coverage, maps, pics, etc. When the governor saw the fire up close yesterday, he said it looked like nuclear winter. The smoke plumes were going up over 20,000 feet.

They have also made an unprecidented move of closing the Pike National Forest, perhaps for the rest of the summer season. No tourists, campers, hikers, etc. The fire danger is too high, and there are too many stupid people who think they should be able to have a campfire or whatever no matter what.
post #17 of 63
How is your friend? I hope he has visited the Red Cross to get their assistance.

In my part of the country, fires threaten livestock. Is there a problem there with cattle, horses, or other farm animals being threatened by the fires?

After looking at the pictures from the fire, I am truly frightened for all of the people and animals in the area.

My heart goes out to you and all of those who are having to face this horrific event.
post #18 of 63
Thread Starter 
Heidi, I was hoping the wind would change direction and clear some of that smoke and ash out of the air for you: I'm glad to hear that seems to be the case! That Hayman Fire is a real monster.

My friend is 'coping' for lack of a better word. He seems to have gone through the emotional gambit: anger, denial, depression, fear, even happiness that his pets are safe... that 'roller coaster' is exhausting in and of itself. I don't know if he's been allowed back in to see his property yet or not.

The Colorado Animal REscue (C.A.R.E.) here in town has done an AWESOME job of rescuing the pets. After people were evacuated, they went in and broke down doors to get pets out for people that couldn't. (There were people at work that weren't allowed back into the area.) I know a number of cats, dogs, and birds have been rescued and are being cared for at the Rescue. A number of people have also offered their property to anyone that needs to relocate horses, and there are some ranches offering property for cattle. The way this community pulls together in times of crisis is one of our greatest strengths.
post #19 of 63
HOLY CRAP!!! ('Scuse my french) They just announced that they are evacuating 40,000 people from Sedalia which is an outlying southern suburb of Denver. They said the Hayman fire has doubled in size in the past 12 hours. This is getting really scary. They have no control of this fire and it is sweeping toward Denver at breakneck speed. They haven't reported it yet, but it looks like the town of Deckers will be wiped off the map.

To add to what Jin has said, even last night when there wasn't much set up for evacuated people, they were already setting up facilities for animals. That is one thing I've noticed with all the fires so far - there are people and facilities that make sure pets and livestock are taken care of. There isn't too much livestock in the areas of the fires now since it is all mountain terrain. Mostly family horses (like one or two per family, not a herd), some cattle, goats, and a lot of pets.

As of last night, too, Red Cross said that they don't need any donations at this time since they have the resources to take care of at least the evacuees of the Coal Seam Fire. I'm sure that will change soon.

I also saw on the news that the Coal Seam that started the fire by Jin has actually been burning underground for 100 years. Just now, with the super dry conditions, it sparked to the surface and got out of control. BTW, the north and west parts of Glenwood Springs are completely evacuated as well as the outlying neighborhoods in the area where structures like Jin's friend's house have been destroyed.
post #20 of 63
Thread Starter 
Oh no, Heidi!!! That's terrible news! I know they were using most of the resources in the state to fight the Coal Seam Fire because it was threatening homes and businesses... I think it's time to shift things over to the Hayman Fire! I mean, I don't want any more homes or businesses here to burn, but I'm sure residents of Deckers don't want their town burned, either!

We so desperately need more resources to fight all of these fires. I know the Coal Seam Fire is being Federally managed now, and there are National Guardsmen in our streets ~ quite surreal, actually. I feel like I'm in a war zone. Has anyone tried to get the entire state declared as a National Disaster Area yet?

Heidi, where exactly are you? Are you safe? Please, PLEASE stay safe. We have one account of someone refusing to leave their home and by the time the fire fighters got them out their house was burning. The person drove off, but the fire was so close, it caught the fire truck on fire that was following the person out of the area. So if you're on the outskirts, anywhere near the fire, get your pets and get out. (I think you said you were on the other side of Denver, though, so I sure hope you're okay!)
post #21 of 63
Well, it looks like they were giving people notice of being evacuated. Areas surrounding Sedalia are being evacuated in the next 24-48 hours, depending on the course the fire takes.

Jin - thank you for your concern. I am in the middle of Lakewood, pretty far into town, just about parallel to Morrison and Red Rocks. So, I am certainly safe right now. We have already talked about packing the important stuff into the cars so all we would have to grab are the kitties and us. I doubt/hope it won't come to that, because if they have to evacuate us about 1/4 of the Metro area could be gone. My biggest concern is that we are only about 1-2 miles from the foothills themselves. And the way this thing is growing...it's at almost 76,000 acres, so that is almost 15,000 acres in about 5 hours.

The feds are taking over the Hayman fire. They said they just can't get in front of it because of the intense smoke and speed of the fire. Last I heard it was moving at about 3-5 MPH.

This is a satellite view of Colorado. The Coal Seam fire that is close to Jin is just to the upper left of the word Colorado (indicated by the yellow dot and red scratches). The Hayman fire is the big one right in the center on the right of the mountains. Denver is obscured by the smoke. There's one more big fire down in the south by Durango, and a few more smaller fires. BTW, for the most part we have been sunny. About 90% of that isn't clouds, it's smoke.
post #22 of 63
I read, in this afternoon'e paper, that they've evacuated people, from the co9al seam fire. The Mayor Pro-Tem of Glenwood Springs says that they learned from the Storm King fire that structures can be rebuilt. Its not worth losing lives. Good for him!
post #23 of 63
Slightly good news on the Hayman Fire. The wind switched directions and is blowing the fire back onto itself. There is also some rain showers falling in the Metro area which is really cleaning out the air. The firefighters basically said that Mother Nature is going to determine when the fire will be under control because they can't do anything to stop it.

I agree, Cindy, that they are taking a responsible course of action with both of these fires. It's not worth people losing their lives for buildings.
post #24 of 63
Thread Starter 
Oh, we need rain over here too!! But I'm glad there's a little coming down SOMEWHERE. I had heard the wind was going to change direction, but I couldn't figure out how they could tell... so wasn't sure if I could believe them. Amazingly they knew what they were talking about for a change!

On my way home from work I noticed a big flare up of the Coal Seam fire in a couple of places. While it's not actually contained, they're working hard right now to do things that WILL contain it. It looks like the homes in West Glenwood Springs are safe for now, as long as the wind here DOESN'T shift. If it does, within minutes quite a few houses would burn.

Yes, Storm King taught us a lot. The federal fire management team said at a news conference earlier today that they couldn't believe the community spirit we have here, and it's just unbelievable the response from the surrounding areas. Yup. We're pretty cool.
post #25 of 63
I wish there were something we could do. I hope our thoughts and prayers will do some good. Please keep us posted.
post #26 of 63
Anything we can say seems feeble when we consider the destruction going on. I pray that lives are not lost, and that those who have been affected by this tragedy will soon experience some kind of normalcy. God bless all.
post #27 of 63
Jin & Heidi,

Just wanted to say, keep safe and I hope that the people of Colorado see some relief soon. Take care of yourselves and I'm sending good thoughts your way.
post #28 of 63
I will be praying too. Especially for some much needed rain to help with the fire!
post #29 of 63
Thank you for the well wishes and prayers from everyone.

Jin - where are you in relation to the fires? You said that your home and business was safe, just curious as to where you are. They said last night that the Coal Seam fire is up to almost 10,000 acres, but that most of the people evacuated are now allowed back into their homes.

One of the guys I work with is pretty much on standby for evacuation. They announced a little while ago more evacuations, about 4,000 people. The wind changing direction last night slowed the Hayman fire down last night, but we are expecting gusty wind in the wrong direction all day today.

It's ironic...the little bits of rain we got last night were actually because of the fire. The smoke particles attach to the moisture, making the raindrops heavier, causing rain. It looks like both of these fires are pretty much just a waiting game.
post #30 of 63
Thread Starter 
Heidi, my home is in New Castle, which is about 2 miles from where the fire started, but to the West of the fire so we were always safe at home. The business is located in South Glenwood Springs. West and North Glenwood Springs are the areas affected. So there's such a slim chance I would have ever been involved in the Coal Seam Fire I'm sure I'm completely safe at home and at work.

They have the Coal Seam Fire at 5% containment. It has "laid down" for the day. For some reason, unlike most fires, this one flares up in the afternoon and evening. During the day it quiets down and smoulders. The wind has died down which is good for the firefighters, but bad for the air quality.

They have opened the evacuation area only because they couldn't keep anyone out any longer. People were getting very angry because of a lack of information. If they would have just TOLD everyone what was going on, it would have been a lot better. People just wanted information, but when they didn't get it, they decided it was time to take matters into their own hands and go have a look-see themselves. The area is apparently still very unsafe and at risk. The sherriff has asked that anyone that has a home there voluntarily packs up and leaves, but the area IS open. Most residents are heeding the advice to only gather belongings and get out. I don't think anyone is staying for now. It's probably wiser that way.

I understand they're managing to get the Hayman fire under a little bit of control... at least behind it so that if it comes back they'll have a good foothold on it.
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