J and I were driving back from a day in Denver on Saturday, June 23rd. We were about 40 minutes away when we began seeing a smoke cloud. We saw people’s Facebook posts that a wildfire had begun in Waldo Canyon, close to Colorado Springs. I took this picture when we were about 20 minutes from home, around 4:45pm.
We saw that our neighborhood was under a voluntary evacuation, so we sat and watched the news online throughout the evening, ready to pack and go if it changed to mandatory. At 8:00pm the evacuation in our area was lifted. This was a picture taken from our guest room on Saturday.
Sunday and Monday seemed fine, it sounded like the fire was moving away from the Springs. We relaxed, and had no idea what would happen Tuesday night.
I had Tuesday afternoon off, so I came home for lunch before going to the dentist. I could tell something had changed, the smoke looked heavier. When I arrived home a friend called to let me know that we were under pre-evacuation (less than voluntary, just means to be alert). I left for the dentist and planned on packing a few things when I got home just to be safe.
Leaving the dentist, I could see that smoke was very dark on the west side, where we lived. I checked the news and we were still under pre-evacuation, and I began planning in my head everything I needed to pack. The panic really set in when this was my view close to home.
I pulled into the driveway and saw some neighbors standing outside looking toward the mountain. I stood in shock as I looked at fire beginning to burn on “our side” of the mountain. It had jumped the ridge. This was the first time we could see actual fire. It was about 4:00pm.
I ran into the house, tried to get a hold of J, and starting throwing things into a suitcase while trying to hold it together. And by holding it together, I mean trying to think clearly while crying and ignoring a pounding heart. I grabbed enough clothes for three days, our wedding guest book, and important papers. At some point during the chaos my friend called again to say that we were now in mandatory evacuation.
I quickly took things outside to put in the car. I looked in horror as I could see the fire had quickly grown in size and was becoming a wall of fire. I saw all neighbors with car doors open, throwing suitcases and belongings in quickly.
I ran through the house one more time, debating on grabbing different items. My wedding dress, J’s favorite items … it was too overwhelming. I felt the need to leave and quickly. My last look down our street showed the illumination of the fire as it grew.
I drove away with many others, catching glimpses of people standing along the street watching but not believing what they were seeing. I drove to Compassion to meet Jeremiah, where we were going to drive on to our friend’s home on the east side of town.
The sky turned black as we drove across town. We didn’t know what was going to happen to our home, our neighborhood, our beautiful city.
We watched on the news that night, with the rest of the city, as the fire began to consume structures (starting around 6:00pm). We watched homes burn, newsmen and women cry, and tried to believe that it was real. We later found out that 346 homes on 35 different streets had been destroyed.
The next day was hard. We didn’t know if our home was there. Even though we were living in uncertainty, we were surrounded by love. Coworkers, friends, our realtor … so many people called and texted to make sure we were safe. We felt so loved and cared for. These days would have been much harder without that.
Thursday morning we knew that our house was standing because our thermostat, Nest, was connected online and we could control it from our phones. This had not been the case the night before when all power was shut off in our area. We were elated! What a wonderful glimpse of hope!
The rest of the week was spent waiting for any news about our area of town, including when we would be able to go home. The evacuations slowly started lifted over the weekend. We found out Sunday afternoon that we could go home Sunday at 8:00pm.
We drove up to our home so full of gratitude. Our home was there, undamaged, just a mile north of hundreds of homes that are gone. With our thankful hearts, there is also sorrow for the loss in our community. This is going to be a long rebuilding process.
Tomorrow is our 2nd anniversary, and I am struggling to realize that. This week turned our world upside down. But it is a good time to stop and celebrate not only two wonderful years of marriage, but that He has been with us every step. Including this last week.