The smoke is settling in here in Colorado Springs. We lost nearly 350 homes, most of them on Tuesday, when high winds raged through the Waldo Canyon Fire. The first fatality – someone left in their home – was found this morning. What an absolutely breathtaking week it has been. It was like we were under attack from a foreign country. Sort of not believing it, definitely scared, our thoughts in a whirl.
Forest fires are evil. I recall the Hayman fire in 2002, the largest forest fire recorded at the time: approximately 140,000 acres burned. There was an “everything’s gonna be okay” attitude at the beginning, but the fire got worse and worse. Hayman ended up engulfing 1/5 of the Pike National Forest, billows of smoke not too far from our house. Waldo was closer to civilization (and us) than Hayman. So as Wendy and I watched the weather predictions for the week – 100 degrees all week long with very little chance of rain – we were shaken. All the elements of Hayman in 2002. We suspected the worst once again.
We’re still on pre-evacuation this morning, so I don’t want to sound giddy; there is still work to do. But this time the fire was licked. Big time. From our perspective, three entities came together that put it out. Yes, there is the chance it can flare up again, but our faith is strong that it won’t. The fires have been subdued by the following three entities.
There has been over 1,200 firefighters on the job, more than any other fire in history. Can you imagine? Eight C-130 aircraft were employed, each one with the ability to drop 3,000 gallons of fire retardant or water at a time. Helicopters were everywhere overhead. I have heard that firefighters from 48 states traveled to our aid. Talk about impressive.
I wonder how many fire chiefs were involved? With this many people from different fire departments, I can only imagine the potential for squabbles, disagreements on how to handle tense emergency situations, the blame-games when something doesn’t go quite as planned. We were glued to the news, just like everyone in this area was, and we saw no evidence of that. Just a determined and unified dedication to push this fire down. Thank you, firefighters!
2. The Military
The military has aided fires before, but I’ve never seen such determination from them like with this fire. Perhaps it’s because they had skin in the game: the Air Force Academy. The fire was right up on its border.
Houses on the campus were lost on Tuesday. [Corrected by an AFA teacher via email: no houses on campus were harmed.] The AFA is beautiful with hardly anything but Ponderosa Pines, so the original fear was that the Academy would burn up. We wanted to think the best, but the weather and the wind were predicting the worst.
I can just imagine the generals and officers barking commands to kick this fire. Some 10 bulldozers, 120 soldiers, dozens of trucks and graders built barriers on the Academy. The force kept the fire from advancing north, securing the line that would have most certainly led straight to our home in Monument. I have to admit, it’s nice having the Air Force Academy to the south of us. Thank you, AFA!
Colorado Springs is a very Christian community. The Mayor and Sheriff openly share their faith, as do most of the city officials. El Paso County is home of countless national and international ministries (including my own). Faith is strong here, and there is an unapologetic attitude when it comes to prayer. I’m sure our leaders and community were on their knees seeking direction through this tragedy.
Remember, the weather was going to be in the high 90s and even over 100 throughout the week. Nature appeared to be against us. We were in for another Hayman Fire, hundreds of thousands of people at reach of this beast. Tuesday came and devastated over 300 homes, more than any other forest fire in Colorado’s history, and Wednesday to Friday was set to be exactly the same weather.
Guess what happened? On Wednesday rain poured north of the Springs. At first, it looked like God missed, but it drew cooler weather and humidity to the south. We still braced for the worst. Like everyone in our neighborhood, our vehicles were parked backwards in our driveway ready to roll. We were ready for more winds that could spark the fire up once again. Instead, the storm clouds brought a huge drench of rain and the temperature dropped into the mid-70s.
Can I emphasize that? This week was predicted to be in the high 90s, and by Thursday afternoon we got mid-70s. That’s a 25-degree spread. Unheard of!
Thank you, God!
Overall, nothing but sheer awe. The worst circumstances were at our door, but the challenge was met. Firefighters, the military and God battled this thing and stomped out this evil fire. What a week to witness.
Perhaps you doubt one of these three entities – firefighters, the military, God. Allow me to emphasize one last thing. As mentioned, there were over 1,200 firefighters, hundreds of military, tens of thousands of evacuees, countless numbers of people volunteering and helping out where they can. How many personnel injuries do you think would come about? You’d think someone would twist an ankle or get a case of heat stroke. Something.
Personnel Fatalities: 0.
Personnel Injuries: 0.
If this ain’t God at work with his people, I don’t know what is. [Tweet this!]
There is much work still to be done. Hundreds of families have no homes to return to. Clean up of this magnitude will be massive. And as of this morning there is only 15% containment of the fire, so we’re not “out of the forest” yet. That said, the battle against the Waldo Canyon Fire was a victory, a real sight to see.