***Please note, I live 8 miles outside of Boulder, I am not evacuated. This post is about my connection to the area.***
I should be asleep, but I can't sleep. The place I called home for 4 years is at the center of a 3,500 acre wildfire. My day has been consumed by the magnitude of the loss. A simple lunch time outing turned into a wave of emotion from the wall of smoke that formed from the canyon to the town I currently live in. I tried to wrap my brain around the exact location of fire from a distance, talking myself down from the worst case scenario, that it was Four Mile Canyon. But after a text, a search on twitter, my fears were confirmed. It was Four Mile Canyon and yes, my friends were safely evacuated. (insert expletive)....
I've seen posts of "great photos" from the fire. I know it's natural in this day in age to share media, video clips in an instant, of course the size of the fire is immense the smoke billowing. But in those great photos all I can imagine is my former neighbor's home or the house I passed day in and day out. We have friends whom have suffered great loss in this fire, friends that I have cried for and will go above and beyond to support them in this time of need. Because in a community that's what you do and I know they would do the same.
There is nothing like living in the mountains, in a small canyon. You come to be intimate with small curves and nuances of the road, give directions like take a left down the dirt road after the collection of mailboxes at the second switchback, but if you get to the Fred's propane tank on the right you've gone too far. I could give you a description of 90% of the homes I passed on my way home, 3.33 miles up Four Mile Canyon Drive. The scanners called out dozens of street names, all of which I had a picture of in my mind. Many of them I cycled numerous times, always enjoying wildflowers on the side of the road or a creek that cascaded under someone's deck. Poorman's, the road between Fourmile and Sunshine Canyon that I dreaded riding my bike on, but screamed a loud hallelujah the day I actually made it after so many attempts turning around. Gold Hill, the quaint mountain town that made me feel like I stepped back countless decades, yes it is complete with a general store. Wall Street, the rumored epicenter of the fire, a road that felt like you could just ride on forever, I loved it because it felt like it was flat compared to Fourmile Canyon Drive.
Don't let quick snippets of generalized conversation fool you, it's not all well to do people living in gorgeous homes. It's the whole spectrum of folks, like the little couple that have called the canyon home since 1963. They added on a room here and there and over the years they made it their home. Shirley was always happy to see me, when I made the hike up her driveway to borrow a cup a sugar. She probably lived the equivalent of 3 city blocks away from me, but I knew her name, her car (she always waved when we passed one another), and her smile. I didn't hesitate to go ask her for a cup of sugar or an egg because she always had a story to tell and I spent the time listening.
There are so many beautiful animals that call the canyon home. Foxes, bears, mountain lions, deer, chipmunks, lizards, hummingbirds. All of which I hope found an escape route to a safe haven, instinct giving them the drive to carry on and flea the flames.
I'm turning off the Boulder County Fire Scanner now and going to try to turn in for the night. I have three lunches to pack in the morning, doing my part to make life normal for two sweet and caring small children that may not have a home to go back to, once the roads are opened. I hope to wake in the morning to news that the fire is contained and the loss that has been suffered does not extend any further. I fear the emotion that will overwhelm me the first day I drive back into the canyon. I feel grateful thousands of lives were saved and so many honorable men and women put their own lives on the line to protect others. Special call out to the pilots of the tankers that dumped numerous loads of flame retardant. Humanity amazes me once again.
Big smiles and a tear in my eye, there will always be a special place in my heart for Four Mile Canyon...