As of this morning, Monday, the High Park Fire is listed as covering 58,046 acres (about 91 square miles) and at 45% contained.
The word contained is one of the most important ones in the reports on progress in firefighting, so I decided to find out how it's defined. The Virginia Department of Forestry has a good collection of terms used in firefighting and discussions of wildfires. Here are three:
- "Contain Fire An effort to prevent further spread of the fire. Frefighters or other resources stop the forward progress of a fire but have not put in all control lines.
- "Control Line Also often called a 'fireline,' this includes lines constructed by firefighters as well as natural barriers to fire such as rock outcroppings, roads, and streams or other water bodies. Foresters construct fire lines by using bulldozers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, shovels, pulaskis, and rakes to clear the line of vegetation down to the mineral soil so that the fire will have nothing to burn when it gets to that point. A term used for all constructed or natural fire barriers used to control a fire.
- "Control of Fire A fire is considered 'controlled' when it is completely surrounded by a 'control line,' which is expected to keep the fire from spreading further. Firefighters and/or other resources completely surround and leave no open line on the fire perimeter."
Note that none of these means that the fire is out or extinguished. What we have been told is that the fire will be put out this fall by nature. Between now and then, human efforts will go into limiting the damage, although even without a full evaluation of lost structures within the fire area the High Park Fire has already exceeded the structural damage of all previous Colorado wildfires. (The Hayman Fire covered the most area.)
Another term on that list has come into play here over the weekend (and continuing):
- "Red Flag Warning A term used by weather forecasters to alert firefighters and citizens to ongoing or approaching fire weather conditions."
Our Red Flag Warning here is the result of very high temperatures (around 100°F/38°C) combined with very low humidity and high winds, at 30 to 50mph (48 to 80km/hr). Yesterday, the winds necessitated the temporary grounding of all the helicopters fighting this fire.
Here's a snapshot from our back yard at about 4:40 p.m. yesterday.
This was when one set of friends arrived at our house. They had been on pre-evacuation notice for a while and got a mandatory notice about 1 p.m.—first for two hours to get out, which shortly after was modified to 20 minutes. Fortunately, in the previous days they had already relocated most of their animals, leaving only one load to bring down the mountain when the "move it!" instructions came: the two remaining dogs, the cats, and themselves, with their two vehicles. The stock trailer was, I think, already down here from when they transported the loads of llamas. They had to check in at several places before they arrived at our house.
Fortunately, three of the four dogs had previously interacted a little. Nonetheless, we made sure the first meeting was out front, on relatively neutral territory. It seemed to go okay.
The BWDs (Big White Dogs) are livestock guardians, two of the four that keep track of the llamas when they're at home up in the mountains. The other two BWDs have been kenneled elsewhere since the llamas were moved (in two batches) to The Ranch, the place for evacuated large animals, and to a private ranch outside the fire area. I think the dogs are a combination of Anatolian shepherds and Akbash.
Finding safe places for animals is one of the challenges of wildfire. Getting them moved quickly and securely requires both advance planning and hard work. (Good news: ALL of the wolves from the WOLF Sanctuary have been evacuated now, and the fire dens that were in place for those that had to be left behind temporarily worked beautifully. Sanctuary evacuation is a big deal for animals and humans alike. Special temporary enclosures had to be constructed, and the animals all seem to be coping well with the move—not a given. Photos and more of the story are on WOLF's Facebook page. I know some of these animals, and they donated fiber for The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.)
In the next photo, Bear is on the left and Lady on the right. They, and the other two of our friends' dogs who are not at our house, are all rescues. When she's at home, Lady actually lives in the house. Bear doesn't know what to do with a house. He wants livestock to keep track of.
Given the calm reactions of the dogs to each other, we moved the big ones to the back yard, and let our relatively small ones in with them.
One of the reasons we have the dogs is that our fencing has been tested over the years by Border collies. We're ready for smart and independent dogs. That gate behind Bear looks a little rickety. Looks are deceiving. There's also a cattle gate right behind it, on the outside. It's secured in a bunch of different ways.
After both dogs checked the perimeter of the yard, Bear found the dirt-bed that our Aussie, Heather, made for herself a bunch of years ago. Heather is no longer with us, but her spirit remains in the household and apparently helped Bear feel like this was an okay place. Even if we didn't have llamas for him.
He settled in, while Lady continued to be antsy for a while.
And then she joined him.
Earlier in the week, our friends brought down the dogloo (insulated doghouse, good for cold or heat), but the deck provides decent shade and we'll be rigging a sunshade for the dogs as well.
I'll close with two photos of the fire that evening. Here's about 6:50 p.m. when I went to the store for groceries, looking across the CSU vet school grounds. This is a bigger evening plume than we've seen, in part because of wind and perhaps also because some of the air-attack equipment had been grounded.
Around 8:40, the temperatures finally got into the lower 90s°F (low 30s°C) and we walked our dogs. This is what the fire looked like from our neighborhood park.
Our friends said the best thing in the day was turning off the cell phones that had been on 24 hours a day since this fire started (and had been also during the Hewlett Fire, for which they also evacuated).
We're taking it one day at a time.
Last night I heard from my Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook co-author Carol Ekarius that a fire has started near where she is. It's called the Springer Fire. Carol is the executive director of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and part of her job involves environmental recovery from the Hayman Fire of 2002.
It's so dry and hot in the Rocky Mountains right now.
And despite all this, I need to finish prepping for upcoming teaching.