June 15, 2006

Red-flag summer fire days

"Red-flag warning," the Weather Service calls it. A hot day--100 degrees F. (38 C) in Pueblo, winds bouncing from 20 to 50 mph.

I had gone to the university and to Country Roots Farm for a veggie pick-up. Driving back west, I saw a large white plume of smoke coming off the mountains.

"Eight miles east of Westcliffe," said the KRCC announcer. I started a mental inventory of what was in the area: the old mining town of Rosita, now rebuilt as mountain homes. One of our favorite restaurants, the Letter Drop. Bear Basin Ranch. Hal & Mary Walter's' place.

More news when I got home: The Tyndall Gulch Fire was at 200 acres so far. The oddly named subdivision of "Cristo Vista" evacuated. (KRDO TV called it "Crystal Vista.") Too windy to fly the slurry bombers--at their low altitudes, I suppose a downdraft could slam the airplane into a ridge top.)

Hal, who had hosted our own fire-caused evacuation last summer, detailing his plans to load his racing burros in his trailer and just cut the barbed-wire fence holding back neighbors' cattle and horses that he cares for. That's what you do when the fire is coming: cut the fence on the downwind side and hope for the best.

Amazingly, the fire was not growing too fast last evening, for all the wind. It's in ponderosa pine and douglas fir, mixed with small meadows. But still...

A fireline was cut and/or burned along Colorado 96, said the Pueblo Chieftain. (Link may expire.)

With winds gusting between 30 and 50 mph, emergency crews dug in south around Colorado 96 and removed low-lying branches and flammable material with bulldozers and shovels, while other crews set minor burns to keep the larger fire at bay.

This morning: a smell of smoke in the air. Haze to the west. The drone of a large propeller-driven airplane somewhere also to the west.

I love summer. I look forward to summer during the cold-weather months.

UDPATE: The Gazette now puts the fire at 700 acres.

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