On Tuesday morning I looked out the window of my go-to coffee shop office + saw a plume of gray smoke rising over the mountain across the road. I lived on that mountain + that smoke did not belong there. A friend had heard reports of a Buffalo Mountain fire over the police dispatch radio + sent me a text message. Even so, I was shocked to see smoke on *my* mountain. A message from Robb, who was working from home, confirmed that yes…there was definitely a fire burning up the forest on the mountainside above our home.
photo // the smoke billowing over the mountain ‘foothill’…seen from Red Buffalo Cafe in Silverthorne
Jittery with morbid excitement I packed up my work + headed home, joking that I wanted to get home to eat lunch before they started evacuations. I was home long enough to take Max out for a short walk along our backyard trails before the evacuation orders started rolling in. We took photos + chatted with neighbors about weather + fire breaks while on the trail, then returned to a parking lot full of open trunks. Someone said we were being evacuated. I have no idea who that someone is, but when there is dark smoke billowing off the mountain just a mile up the mountain…you don’t ask questions, you pack!
Except, instead of power packing, Robb + I just stared at each other.
What do you take when you’re being evacuated for a fire?
You pack up the important stuff — the things you can’t replace. For us, in that moment it, everything important enough to save was capable of putting itself into a car all by itself — me, Robb + Max. That’s what mattered.
photo // an afternoon spent evacuated…entertaining the dogs + watching the fire pump smoke into the sky
When we realized it wasn’t actually a ‘holy crap, your house is on fire’ evacuation we took a deep breath + forced our way through a few logical thoughts. While we were gone, for however long that was, we’d need to eat, sleep, shower + work. That made money + clothes our biggest needs. Luckily, we hadn’t really unpacked from our most recent trip [had been home barely 36 hours] so we just repacked our bags + grabbed our wallets. Unsure of where we’d sleep that night camping gear seemed like a good back-up plan…so the two plastic bins of camping gear got tossed into the back of my car.
Lastly, since we still had time to spare, we grabbed a few things that would be a pain to replace –work computers, heaps of tax paperwork + my journals.
Yup, my journals. As I was getting into my car I realized I had left them behind. The moment of panic I felt deep in my chest was all the encouragement I needed to go back in to get them. Again, our house wasn’t on fire…we were simply being evacuated as a precaution [what we told ourselves!].
photo // fire crews attacking the fire from every direction on Wednesday, day two of the Buffalo Fire
In the chaos of it all we realized exactly what is important to us + what we’re completely comfortable replacing if needed. It was actually really refreshing to realize that I’m not attached to the house or the new kitchen knives or my snowboard or…anything that I can’t simply pick up + toss into a car.
As I write this I’m back at the Red Buffalo Cafe in Silverthorne with a view of the mountain our home is on. There is no smoke looming on the horizon, the sky is clear + our evacuation notices have been lifted. We were extremely lucky. We live just below the ‘mandatory evacuation’ line so we did not lose electrical power + were allowed more access to our homes than those living high up. Friends living above that evacuation line were allowed back into their homes last night…homes that were saved from a raging wildfire because of the incredible work for ground + air fire crews.
photo // a message to the fire crews that spent two days flying directly over our home to fight the fire
The entire community is working to get everything put back together…getting life back to normal. The homes above the ‘mandatory evacuation’ line were without power for about two days, so their fridges + freezers are lost causes. However, the water stations kept pressure on the water lines so our water is safe to drink [we’re not on boil orders, one risk of cutting power to a whole neighborhood]. There are dump stations for spoiled food + the food pantry is accepting perishable donations to help replenish fridges + freezers.
It has been truly incredible to watch the community pull together — Red Buffalo opened early + let anyone in to use power outlets, wifi + restrooms [including dogs!], strangers opened up their homes to anyone displaced [so much so, the evacuee refuge was shut down early!] + everyone was generally extra kind to each other. I love my time on the road, roaming the world, but there is something to be said about being part of a great community!