The night the CalWood Fire started, my husband and I stood at a second story window and watched in horror as the bright flames burned on the north end of Boulder. I wish I could say this was an unusual surreal experience, the first of its kind. But, no. Actually, it was more: “Really?! Again?! And now?! Lord, help us!”
Like many long-time Coloradans, we’ve been through flood and fire scares. (No tornados though. But give it time. We’re not dead yet.) Evacuation planning, therefore, is a standard thing for us. Still, it’s a different scare-your-pants-off experience each time.
When we were young, nubile thangs living in a teeny apartment, our first evacuation – for a potential Boulder Creek flood in the late 80s or early 90s – was made simple by the fact we had one small, old car, two cats and few scant belongings. Everything fit in our vehicle except our make shift and hand-me-down furniture which neither of us would cry about if we saw it floating down steam. Actually, we probably would have cheered.
Many years later, we were put on evacuation alert for the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire that we could see from our house. Then our two boys were teenagers. This was when I learned how building-oriented video games prepared them to very efficiently pack a vehicle. (Either that or the numerous times we moved.) Our boys were also oddly calm, well functioning and quick witted for being in a crisis situation, traits that may also be attributed to video games (or perhaps, team sports). I stood by in awe while they took charge. It was like they were highly trained crew well prepared to execute this emergency mission: Bravo Team Stinky Socks.
During the devastating 2013 Colorado floods, we didn’t have to evacuate our next house in the country. It was more or less spared but our storage shed roof was not. Unfortunately we didn’t realize this for many weeks until the growing mold more or less out weighed our belongings. We lost many possessions including, sadly, Christmas items. Nothing quite says happy holidays like green moldy Christmas stockings hung on the hearth.
After the CalWood Fire started my husband and I staggered in shock around our current house to update our evacuation list. After documents, photos and memorabilia, decisions got overwhelming to me. Our favorite artwork and clothes made the list for sure. But after that, what should we take? It was like we we’re playing Sophie’s Choice with decades of home goods that each had their own history. My little brain spun double time and locked from over exertion.
“Don’t forget we have to take some of the boys things,” my husband pointed out. Ugh, this opened another can of worms I forgot about, and my brained grinded a little harder before seizing up again. Our grown sons have moved into apartments but their tubs of stuff – including just about every dang toy from their happy childhoods – are still in the attic. I could hear my younger son’s voice in my head saying, “Mom, you know those Lego sets are valuable collectables.” Really? How about the tub of 5,397 miscellaneous pieces? Big demand for that?
Luckily we didn’t have to make any of these tough choices. Neither fire got close to our house. My heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, possessions or animals. (During a flipping pandemic, no less! Right before winter, too! Is there no break in 2020?) These fires are a reminder to the rest of us lucky schmucks how fortunate we are: Yah, we’re stuck home. But at least we have a home to be stuck in.
By Mary Lynn Bruny. Mary Lynn is a Colorado freelance writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.