The smoke from the Waldo Canyon fire billows across the landscape as far away as Pueblo. The night before, this region was on fire (Wednesday). The air is hazy with smoke that clings to your clothes and moistens your eyes, but it’s nothing like the gloomy, thick cloud that had been there the day before. A gnat-size helicopter with hundreds of gallons of water in its belly flies back and forth collecting water to be poured on the flames.

Despite the fact that we like to go outside a lot in Colorado Springs, this is not the case these days. The scorching heat has been like an oven, and there’s a thick cloud of smoke that irritates our eyes and lungs.

This week, we watched the local news, which informed us about the most recent developments in our western city’s fire hazard. Still, it was tranquil overall.

We heard no reports of anything unusual, and the only evidence anyone else saw was that enormous plume of smoke in the distance. It was difficult to believe that a thousand committed, highly trained individuals were all that stood between us and catastrophe. It was hard for me to comprehend that these brave men and women were genuinely out there, trapped in the midst of such heat, smoke, and towering flames hundreds of feet high.

Then, two nights ago, it struck home in a literal sense. When officials were about to hold their usual press conference, flames suddenly shot over a ridge and began to devour houses below. It came as a surprise to everyone present. The fire charged at 65 mph down on a neighborhood. The devastation was the word that came to mind.

The brave firefighters fought it head-on. Many homes were destroyed, but many were saved. They battled the fire back.

But today, there’s only smoke, with charred remnants of homes reduced to ashes. Many still exist owing to these valorous individuals.

  1. Shut down the windows, doors, and garage doors.
  2. To keep away some of the heat, close blinds and drapes.
  3. To keep smoke and burning embers out, close all of the vents, such as those in the basement and garage.
  4. Ladders, axes, and chainsaws should be stored where firefighters may spot them. They may not have a lot of equipment, but they know how to use it. If they have the time, they could possibly pause.
  5. Connect the hoses to your machine.

Remember that you don’t have to wait for an evacuation order. Prepare, and leave calmly, when you want. You may beat traffic too.

We enjoy hiking in this area and appreciate the rough terrain. But for the most part, a few hours of walking up and down a mild mountain path is enough for us. These firemen walk on paths that we never tread. For them, there are no gentle pathways. And they do it for numerous hours every day. It takes a certain type of person to do so.

What to Do Before the Evacuation: Clear the Brush and Look for the Spickets

TSD: If you live in a wooded area, you’re supposed to clear brush from around your home. But is it really necessary in the midst of a large forest fire?

BH: Yes. The inferno appears to be one mass in the pictures. However, it may go all around the house or even over it at times.

Furthermore, you want the firefighters to regard your home as defensible. If they know a fire is approaching, they’ll have a pre-plan and categories.: “These houses are absolutely defendable, these houses we’ll get to if we have time, and these houses, we need to cut some trees down if we have time.”

TSD: Before the interview, you informed me that persons may connect their hoses to spickets before they are evacuated. What is the purpose of this?

BH: This is a bit specific to your region, but you can connect your hose to the spicket, so 1) it will be obvious where the spickets are and 2) if they have time and think it’s a good idea—such as if they don’t believe that it’ll run the city dry of water—they will turn your water on and drench the area, hoping that the fire won’t hit their home.

  1. Keep an eye on the weather. If there is a lack of relative humidity (RH) and high temperature, “all you need is a little fire, a little wind, and you’re burning.”
  2. Remember that fire need not be next door to endanger your home. It’s easy to see how a spark from a nearby fire and a gust of wind can combine to cause fires.
  3. Consider your terrain. You’re in more danger if you’re uphill. The heat causes everything in front of the fire to dry out, and the embers travel upwards even quicker because of this. “so it just runs right up.” All you need is to place a few planters in an area where the wind can pass through. (However, if you live in a Santa Ana location, beware of the winds.)

TSD: Should they position the hose effectively?

BH: No, you don’t have to. If I were in that situation, I would put it on the ground rather than on the driveway—anywhere they could simply tap it on and go. Because sometimes a fire comes so fast that you see this home and think to yourself, “Stop,” then all we have to do is turn a faucet. They’ll get out, do it, then return in the truck and go.

Yes, you should evacuate. Is it necessary to close the door? Yes, But Unless You’re Prepared To Shut It Before You Leave.

TSD: Have you observed people remaining in their homes during a mandatory evacuation?

BH: Yes. If they tell you to leave, then you must do so because 1) you will die or 2) a firefighter who tries to save you will be murdered.

Also, if you have horses, take them out before the order is given. Because they receive the evacuation notice and flee, we often come across people who abandon their horses.

There are also horses that you can leave in the fenced area and burn to death—a slow and excruciatingly painful death—or you may let them out and have them run across the fire, causing firefighter deaths as they smoke because of their thick smoke. You know where your other people are, but when a horse approaches on the road, you hit them. Alternatively, do you kill the horse?

TSD: If you’re in a good location, they advise that you close your door before leaving. You said you would leave your unlocked if you felt it was a safe area. Why?

BH: If you’re a fireman, there’s no way to protect yourself from the fire if you’re caught in it because of how our ground is. That’s why firefighters die. So, if we come upon a house and the doors are locked, we’ll break-in.

If the fire is approaching and your door is unlocked, they can enter to handle some items that may be seen within the home – for example, you might have left a window open or the shades aren’t drawn.

If a major fire breaks out, the federal government requires that you take mandatory rest periods. It’s not for a long time, though. So, on a huge fire in the middle of nowhere, you may work on the line for eternity with only MREs to eat and little warm water to drink. So if you can come in and get some excellent food and clean water while getting yourself feeling a hundred times better, they’ll take care of your home as well as they can.

And I’d take down the “Forbidden” sign from the door. [Laughs.]

And your vehicle: Remove any valuables from the vehicle before entering, and make sure all of the windows are up. I’d leave the car unlocked with the keys in it after that.

TSD: Why?

BH: If it’s in a bad location, if they think it’ll overheat, they can relocate it.

Wildland firefighters—I’ve never worked with a crew of people with such good hearts who truly believe in what they’re doing. They have no choice.

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