We live in the Black Forest area of Colorado that you have probably seen in the news these past few days. Our home is a mile outside the mandatory evacuation area. We chose to stay at our house, but our car is packed and ready to leave at a moment's notice since Tuesday. Sadly many of our friends and neighbors lost their homes. 482 homes burned completely. Homes can be rebuilt, but many people had to leave their animals behind, or turn them loose and this was the real heartbreak.
Here are some of the things I learned, which I did not know before. If a fire breaks out and they evacuate an area, NOBODY is allowed into that area so, if you are out and try to get back to retrieve your pets, it's not happening. Suggestion, make sure you have friends among your neighbors and that someone would have a way of getting to your pets if necessary or days could pass before the Humane Society would be allowed to do it for you. Some people had no more than 20 minutes to leave, others had a knock on the door from a deputy telling them to get out. I especially wondered about dogs who may have been left crated, since the fire broke out in the early afternoon....
Don't underestimate the time it takes to get ready. If you have the luxury ( as we did ) to be in a voluntary evacuation or in a pre-evacuation area, immediately gather a few days of supplies/meds needed for you and your pets and put them in your car, so all you have to gather is people and pets and you can go.
As you do this, draw water, because chances are you will loose electricity and water is your most needed commodity. There are plenty of other things I learned ( like keep windows closed, smoke is hard to get out once it makes it's way in, etc) but that goes beyond the scope of this post. BTW, if you don't have a battery operated radio, go out and buy one now, it was our only source of information and helped keep us safe when TV and computers no longer worked.
Did you ever hear from Theresa?
No... there has been so much going on. Her house phone number says the mailbox is full. Of course, there is no house, but people are having their calls forwarded. The cell phone number I have is an old one. We tried to drive by the house, but the road was blocked, it has been re-opened now, I will try again today. I am volunteering with the Black Forest Kids Relief and Recovery Project (they have a Facebook page) to try and help those who were not insured or were under-insured. This is a mixed Community, from million dollar homes to old log cabins and mobile homes, on acerage. Many have no water. The fire was so hot it melted some of the well heads and some wells collapsed into themselves... and on and on and on, but people are resilient, have a good attitude for the most part and there is a lot of effort to find and help those in need. Thankfully, we've had no more smoke. As hardly anyone here has air conditioning ( we're at 7200 ft. ) , being able to open windows makes all the difference. Thanks for asking.
Update: I finally connected with Theresa Strader today. All are safe. She was supposed to go on a big out of State rescue the day the fire started. She said her husband told her 'You're not going, you're tired, they can wait a few days" This is the first time ever he had said anything like this. She stayed home. The fire broke out around 1:30 pm. She had 22 animals. Her pets were 3 dogs, a cat and an old cranky rooster, all the others were rescues needing special care, including a dam with pups. When she saw smoke, even before the evacuation was called, she got things ready so she could leave. She had been in a fire at age 9 and knew not to take any chances. Others came to help move the animals. Afraid that some animal would be left behind in the confusion of the moment and with other people helping move them out, she made a list of all of them, placed herself by the gate, and checked them off one by one as they exited from the gate. She was saddened that she could not move the fish in their two aquariums. Flames were coming over the top of their trees as they drove away. They will rebuild.
Smart woman to have that all planned and ready to leave early including the rooster:). Last night we burned brush in our big fire pit (10'X15') it got so hot I had to move back twice as the dogs and I were watching it. I understand wanting to get everything out and I know I would have to leave some cats and chickens behind as they are not friendly enough to catch. I actually have papers in my drawer that should be filled out for emergencies such as this. Around here we only have field fires and I've only seen at a distance but that is scary enough especially since we have a block long driveway with corn on each side. I figure if we couldn't get out we'd have to go into the silo as it's brick and the bottom is about 10' in the ground. I can't imagine such a fire as you had there. Glad they made it out safely. This is also a good reminder to have emergency plans made, about 12 years ago the town 6 miles from our homes were flattened by a tornado and they weren't allowing people in for at least 3 days except for emergency and Red Cross workers.
Anna....thank you so much for the update. Very happy to hear that she is ok as are her animals. Theresa sounds like a very dedicated and organized person and that undoubtbly saved her and all those in her care.