Quilt ADD in therapy

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Colorado, United States
Other than my family, the passion of my life is quilting. An eclectic, I love a wide variety of styles and techniques encompassing both machine and hand work. Instagram: lyncc_quilts

Monday, June 17, 2013

BOMs Away - 17 June - Black Forest Fire Report & Link-up


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Welcome to the Link-Up for BOMs Away Mondays!

We'd love to see the BOM you're working on lately.
This week's link-up is at the bottom of this post.



Zero BOM work here - scroll on down for the link-up.  




This has been the second worst stretch of time in my life.  Thank you so much to everybody who sent me notes during this last week. I've been able to work through about half of them and will definitely reply to the rest of you.  :)


We ourselves are OK now and out of danger. For four days we sat in one of the advancing lines of the worst fire Colorado has ever had, 100 yards from the pre-evac zone.  On Tuesday afternoon, a fire started in the old forest village of Black Forest. It sits in a dense wood of gigantic Ponderosa pines, and was the last best stretch of forest in the region that has had serious drought for a full decade. The trees are all dry, and undergrowth is basically just a bunch of kindling. Grasses die very quickly after the spring thaw and create worrisome tinder. 




We are in Woodmoor, a bedroom community in more woods that are not quite as dense as Black Forest was, but is still very much a woodsy area. Mature Ponderosas tower over all our homes and populate our acreages with some Scotch pines, various spruces, and Aspens popping up here and there. We have lots of woodsy wildlife, and meadow denizens where those exist among the trees. Home lots throughout these areas range from one-half to 5 acres, with a few ranches scattered around the woods. State Highway 83, a two-lane non-divided road with not much tree-break runs north-south across the diagonal stretch of forest between Black Forest village and our neighborhood. Here on the west side of the fire, that road was the line that the firefighters valiantly succeeded in keeping the fire from crossing.

Fire Perimeter on Thursday - Follow the small road on the left of it up
and the intersecting road over 1/2 way to the Interstate on the left, and that's where our house is.

But the afternoon winds were horrible for us. For 5-8 hour stretches Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, they blew straight at us from the fire, often gusting to 35 mph. This was a 14,000-acre fire by Wed. night, so it was a tremendous threat in the wind under our dry conditions. Wednesday morning, when it was clear that this fire would threaten us, my 21yo stayed home from work to help me load our most precious and most necessary items into our vehicles. 




All our hand-made quilts and significant WIPs were packed in, then the important documents, then photos, then clothing (oh yeah!, you think, Don't forget winter coats and gear that would be so very expensive to replace), 




and then Scott gets home from work (he had to maintain business-as-usual status even though a full 1/3-1/2 of their staff was evacuated from their homes or in the pre-evac zones) and you add a few more things that would be comforting to have - the little antique table you adore, a handful of decorations that are theoretically replaceable but would be super comforting to have when starting over. . .




You don't sleep at night at all, even though it cools down dramatically and the winds go much calmer, giving the firefighters a merciful chance to break the spreading. When you take a shower, you wonder if that will be the last one in this home you love so much. And during the day you can't do anything more than hold your breath as you stare out the windows at the wind, making sure you don't see any embers blow in and start a new fire point, or check and re-check the evacuation zone status even though you have your cellphone registered for reverse 911, and refresh the live-streaming page for local updates on the fire fight. You thank God every time the Internet works for you, and you really don't want to see the network news reports because you cannot - CANNOT - see all the images of the worst flames. 




You *do* sometimes love to browse the positive images of the fight - the firefighter saving the baby deer, 




the rescued horses and mules getting out of the burn zone, 

(They couldn't get these guys trailered -
only way to get them out was to lead them like this.)




the cultish car-washing and windows-all-down-parking efforts of folks in downtown Colorado Springs to help bring on some rain when clouds rolled over the mountains, 



(They've already started making their own memes of Sheriff Maketa!)

the Thank You rallies at the command entry point during firefighter shift changes, 





the DC-10 dropping its 13,000 gallons of fire-retardant slurry - the best-ever re-purposing of a passenger-jet aircraft, I say! 



the re-fueling field at the USAF Academy base, 







the Army helo crew's view of a basket water dump, 

shot by Sgt. Thibault. The helicopter bucket work of the 2nd General
Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.

a shot of a helicopter getting more water from one of the precious watering holes that nearby ranchers freely offered up. 



Those of you who have cared for livestock in drought conditions know just how much that gesture entailed. I intend to write a Thank You card to every one of those ranchers and each fire unit and military unit that worked (and is still working) in this fight.

The loss of forest is devastating, on top of the loss of personal properties.


The Black Forest Fire is 65% contained at this time, with a great part of the mandatory evacuation zone reduced to "prepare to flee" status. There are "only" just under 5000 people still evacuated - it was 38,000 at the worst point. Stubborn hot spots in the central area continue to threaten remaining homes - The numbers are currently 483 homes completely destroyed, 17 partially damaged, 3615 saved intact (a spectacular feat, that!) 


Two homes the fighters were able to save.


- and the police and National Guard keep a vigilant watch to protect evacuated families' property. If a non-resident tries to enter those areas, they are not only arrested, but automatically criminally charged. That's cool beans there. Thank you, authorities!




The fight against the fire has been phenomenal, with over 1100 firefighters involved. They've come from many locations to help. Several military installations in the region pitched in. Army Fort Carson and Air Force Base Peterson sent helicopters and C-130s and other aircraft to make aerial drops of water and fire retardent. The Air Force Academy base (where my husband works) sent truck crews and dedicated its air field (which usually sees parachute practice and glider and airplane piloting lessons, along with occasional visits from vintage military aircraft) to be the refueling base for the aerial fire fight. The astonishing thing to me is that there weren't a huge string of accidents on I-25 every day, because that refueling field was perhaps an entire 200 yards from the interstate and plainly visible to the passing traffic. Already a congested stretch because of road construction, I-25 has been a virtual parking lot most of this week because the fire closed down the "back highway" that a lot of local traffic uses for north-south commuting between our area and main-city Colorado Springs. A DC-10 was also used to fight this fire. It is beyond amazing to see one of those fly so very low over treetops.


The Academy refueling field as seen from I-25 heading south

Friday afternoon we had a thunderstorm move in. Winds blew straight at us once again, and all of us in our neighborhood stood post at windows, terrified of new lightning-strike blazes - residents in the pre-evac zone just south of us and west of that Hwy 83 fire-break line quickly put out a grass fire that did ignite from a strike - and then it started pattering a few drops on us - hold your breath and pray - and yes! Oh, my!  We got a good 15 minutes of honest drizzle at the house, and the governor and sheriff gleefully streamed on the notices that it was also drizzling on the burn zone. Not enough to douse the fire, but good enough to drop the temps 15 degrees and give the firefighters an even hand in the fight and actually contain one part of the perimeter (not the part near us, but we'll take anything at this point!). Heather and I actually pulled a kit from storage that hadn't been packed in the vehicles and putzed around at doing a wee bit of quilting stuff for an emotional break, and that night was the first time I slept most of the time, only waking 3 times to check zones and reports. 

On Saturday they had the fire 55% contained by lunchtime, if I'm remembering correctly, and that included the line of the perimeter that was most threatening to us. Winds were far calmer, and slightly away from us. Motivation to hit the mitigation work that was supposed to happen on Wednesday was high, so we grabbed gloves and equipment and went to work.


You can kind of see here how dense our whole back half was -
too many trees for this climate, and no room for firefighters to work.

You see, this 1-acre property that we moved into last September had not been tended for over 20 years. (It's so ironic that we pulled into Colorado Springs at the very worst time for the Waldo Canyon fire that was on the mountain side of the city last year.) While I dearly loved the back half that I called "The Nursery," the thick carpeting of baby and juvenile Ponderosas was not a good thing. I had a forester come almost two weeks ago and walk our property with me to check for the devastating Mountain Pine Beetle and teach me how to care for our part of the woods. I was told that such a dense stand of pines would do nothing but kill themselves all out, competing desperately for the itty bit of water available, and robbing each other of the nutrients they need. Additionally, in our drought situation, they were an extreme fire hazard - so dry they'd go up like a Roman Candle and so dense they'd form an impenetrable wall of flame for firefighters to try to get through. Their vulnerability to ignition was augmented because they stand on a hillside up toward our home from an open meadow area (about 20 acres) on one side and the neighborhood lane on another side. One cigarette flicked out of a car (unlawful in this state), or one ember blowing in on the wind from the southeast (guess which direction Black Forest is???!), and our property would blaze most likely beyond saving. Trees come right up close to the house, with several mature Ponderosas hanging over the roof on the south side. The aspens that flank the house are not of such alarming concern because apparently they don't blaze up readily. Beeches, on the other hand, you really don't want right by your house - perfect kindling trees. There was much "ladder fuel" pointed out to me (branches that hang down close to the ground, where dry grasses touch off trees easily), and many of the mature pines had tons of dead lower branches (up to 25' high on many of them) that had not yet dropped naturally. Huge fire hazzard here. 




So I had 4 different tree contractors come and evaluate the job for estimates. We pointed out the work we intended to do ourselves, and what we needed professionals for (NOOOO, Scott - you may NOT attempt to fell the 6-story pine 3 feet from the house by yourself with a little chainsaw!!)  Selected a team, waited for our turn to come up. 




Tuesday when the fire broke out and rapidly leaped out of control, when tons of things started cancelling, and especially when the other tree company that does pest control called to tell me they had to reschedule the spraying of my Aspens until after the fire, I knew our next-day appointment with the mitigation cutting crew would fall through as well. Thursday afternoon I called to see if they could project a reschedule date, only for him to tell me his home was in the worst burn zone, so he couldn't do any scheduling at the moment - "but call me when it is contained and we'll see what the calendar is doing."  It was everything I could do not to burst into tears talking with him. I couldn't imagine his position, felt so petty talking about such a thing in the face of his most-likely total loss of house and possessions (apparently his work equipment was rescued as it lives in trailers on their work trucks), but also realized he's going to need all the work he can get, so it was still an important call to him. 




So, back to that motivation to get to do the work our property needed for tree health and fire mitigation - Saturday, after a decent night's sleep, with the fire well on its way to good containment numbers, and the pre-evac zone pulled back away from our area, we pulled out our gloves and tools and went to work. Scott took out the dead Scotch pine and all the reachable ladder fuel and dead branches. The girls gathered dead slash on the ground and hauled that, along with our cuttings, up to the crest of our lot where there was a safer place to pile it than the exposed side. I took the hand saw out the back way and hit the nursery. Which is gone.  :(   I no longer have a lush - yet unsupportable - carpeting of baby and juvenile Ponderosas. I chose the best-looking, healthiest trees at intervals half the distance of the "ideal" adult spacing. 


Now that half acre looks like this. 


Spacing that can sustain itself, and something a fire team can work through.

A tree lover, I'd grasp the next victim and tell it something like "sorry, dude, you gotta take one for the team. . ." - and now I have a scattering of young or adolescent pines through that area that have a good chance of growing to maturity. In 7-10 years I can choose the best specimens to keep and thin it out the rest of the way to its best adult spacing. The trees I cut by hand had diameters of 1.5" to 5". I quit counting at 200. The few that were too fat for me I called for Scott to fell with his chainsaw. The remarkable thing is that we got the entire job finished in one day - - which is good, because I'm way too sore to contemplate having to do any more!


Just a small part of the cast-off piles

Yesterday the containment had gone up enough and weather conditions were conducive to feeling far more confident that the crisis for us was past, so we unloaded the vehicles. You know, when it comes to facing the need to drive away with only the most valuable things you can pack in, you can fit a LOT in two cars and one Suburban. Especially when you realize everything - the house, your furniture and knickknacks - it's all Just Stuff. Most of what we have is not irreplaceable, and we were able to fit all of what wasn't in the cars, so if the worst had happened and the fire got the house, we would have been sitting pretty good compared to those in the immediate burn zone, who had only what they could grab in 5 minutes. Two people lost their lives because they were trying to save more and were overcome as they were throwing things into their car in their garage. That breaks my heart. My heart is broken for the fun 40-something lady who was running pickup load after load of mitigation slash (the trimmings from your trees and shrubs) from her property to the Black Forest Slash and Mulch Yard where we were taking a turn as a family putting in a volunteer shift last Sunday. She lived very near to it, and the Yard was maybe 1/2 mile from the epicenter, in the worst part of the burn zone. So we're certain the Yard was destroyed and most everything around it. Some pockets of survival exist in that area, and I pray that somehow that one woman's little house was spared. 

The firefighters still work hard to get this thing extinguished and stop further damage to homes. They asked the local groupies for some things, so yesterday I took a bag full of foot cream, one of bananas, and one of non-melting snack packs to their command center for them. Couldn't get socks for them, because our WalMart still hadn't reopened. But man, do I appreciate every one of them, and I'll be watching to see if they ask for anything else today. 




Hug your families and look around at your home and thank Heaven for it. Pray for those many folks who have lost theirs recently because of fire or tornadoes. And if you have venues come up on your local elections regarding funding for your fire and police, vote for what it takes to keep adequate coverage running. You wanna guess how much we're thanking the good lord above that last fall we voted here to add the little bit of millage necessary to keep our nearest fire department running? Bless you all with safety to life and property, and thank you for all the supporting notes!!  

~~Lynette, aka Lyn


~*~*~*~*~ 

 So - Have you worked on BOMs or interval projects lately? Weeklies are welcome along with regular projects that you’ve broken into monthly units, and –of course- true BOMs.   Share your eye candy and show off your progress since the last time you linked up! There are some wonderful monthly and weekly projects going on out there.


25 comments:

Debbie said...

So glad to see your post and here all that has happened. I have been holding my breath thinking about you and your family. Firefighters are amazing!

Carrie P. said...

WOW! what a stressful time for you and all your neighbors. I hate to cut down trees too but it sure does sound like a good idea in your area. Praying!

Jennifer Houlden said...

Holy wowsers Lyn. I had a quick scan of your post and my head is reeling. I'm going to come back tomorrow when I have a bit more time and read it thoroughly. Sure looks like it has been quite the ordeal.

BillieBee (billiemick) said...

I'm so glad you are out of danger. It's really scary. We were in about 7-10 miles from the Bastrop fires. We were only saved by the direction of the winds.

Teresa in Music City said...

Sounds like a pure miracle that you were saved! And thanks to all those wonderful people who gave so much to keep safe as many people and houses and animals as possible!!

Barbara Stanbro said...

Wow, Lyn. What a harrowing story. So glad you are safe.

Linda said...

What a story! Glad you're ok.

Karen @ Pieces of Contentment said...

It's been quite some week for you. SO pleased to hear you and your home are ok but so sad to hear of the great losses too. We live with the threat (and recent near disaster) of flooding, which is more predictable and most often something remains afterwards. Fires are so much more destructive and frightening.

Dana Gaffney said...

Lyn, thanks for this, I've been thinking about you and hoping you're all O.K. Let's all hope the danger is past.

Sherry said...

Have been praying for your safety and the saving of your home. So glad the worst has passed but I know you will see the effects in the area for a long time. Blessings to you and your family.

Debbie said...

Thanks for sharing the "rest of the story" with us. I really got the sense of what this fire is like and what the people are having to go through. How hard to remove those young trees...but I have to remember we are the care takers of such beauty and in the end the forest is better for all your work. Truly hope the worse is over and life will return for you all.

Kathy said...

I've been thinking about your situation all week and glad that the danger has past.

Deb@asimplelifequilts said...

So relieved that things are getting under control and life is getting back to normal, although feeling more precious. A wake-up call for sure. I love being surrounded by the beauty of trees too and we did a drastic thin-out about 5 years ago that was hard to take but the "good trees" flourished so I understand it's purpose.

Thanks for sharing!

Kate said...

I'm so glad you're safe - we've been thinking and praying about you! I can't imagine how terrifying that is, and figuring out what to put in the cars. We've done the "important documents in the tornado shelter" thing, but there's no room for anything sentimental like quilts, so I haven't had to decide what's worth saving. And the danger of a tornado is (usually) one day, a couple hours, not days and days of wondering if the fire will reach you. The backyard forest looks good now - and it will be better for the future trees!

Heidi said...

I have been anxiously awaiting this post - thank you for the update/ great coverage and photos! Cheers to all the volunteers and service peoples!

Quiltdivajulie said...

Thank you for this post . . . for ever so many reasons.

Carla said...

Thank you for sharing your story. We are only 5 hours away and have friends that were evacuated, but all of them have faired well. I watched a video of one friend with police and firefighters spraying water around the house when they were all showered with fire repellent from one of those big planes above. It gave them all a laugh in such a terrifying scene.
I'm so happy you are OK and I can't imagine going through such emotions.
Great work of thinning out trees. Now go quilt something. :-)

Donna~~ said...

Thanks for the update! Glad you & your home are ok! :)

Borderline Quilter said...

Lynette, I cannot imagine what you have all been through but am so happy you are safe, I had no idea!!!!

Big hugs from Scotland
Best wishes Kay

Shannon said...

I am so glad you guys are safe! Blessings to all those firefighters and rescue workers and everybody (ranchers sharing water hooray!!). I'm sending damp non-windy thoughts your way.

creativedawn said...

It is good to hear that you and your family are safe! I continue to pray for those affected by the fires. I have always said that firemen and firefighters are the real HEROES!!!! Bless them.

sending big hugzzzzzz
Pam

Carole~Wheels on the Warrandyte Bus said...

How distressing to hear what you and your community have been through. Glad you are safe. I could relate to your experience as we also live in a high bushfire danger zone and every summer we pack up our precious belongings (including my quilts) and put them into storage. Take care.

Julie Fukuda said...

I have been out in the woods with the Scouts and no internet for over week and was thinking of you all the while. I'm so glad to read your report and know you are safe.I wished I could have sent you the rain we were having daily as well.
Stay safe, Julie

Gari in AL said...

I didn't see this post until yesterday: didn't come through my feed. I had decided I would try email if I didn't hear from you by today. I am so glad that you are safe and, if I read this right, your home is safe, too. Also proud that you are taking precautions to protect your place in case of another fire emergency. I hope you are back home, or will be soon, so you can begin to get things back to normal.

Barb said...

Living in the mountains of Idaho, I read your post with a great deal of anxiety. Our forests are littered with standing dead pines from beetle kill. We had several huge fires last summer, and are preparing for more this summer as well. Fire is such a devastating event that you can't really understand its force until you experience it Up Close and Personally. So glad you were able to save your property. Blessings for you and those fire-fighting heroes.