Ash Falling From the Sky in December 2

You can donate to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund here.

In a minute I’m going to put together what I actually came over to this page for, which would be my year in writing review for 2021. But there are some thoughts I want to jot down, first.

Yesterday I was over at a friend’s house in the afternoon to play board games. I’m on vacation because Mike is visiting from Texas and I haven’t had a proper vacation since before the pandemic started, so I figured why the hell not.

When I popped out the door to grab our lunch delivery, the air smelled like wildfire smoke. There’s a distinctive scent to it that you recognize when you live in wildfire country, sharper and more grating than the more domestic smoke of a wood fire or the scent of a charcoal grill that registers as “something tasty is close by.” I mentioned that I smelled a fire and we checked around to see if there were any alerts. There weren’t, at that time. My sinuses felt like someone had attacked them with steel wool.

Twenty minutes later, there was news of power lines down and fallen trees blocking roads from the windstorm that was gusting up to 110 mph near Boulder. And blown by that wind, a grassfire that was racing east. The sky turned into a smear of brown smoke; we were directly under the plume. Ash started to fall from the sky. It’s not the first time I’ve seen that; we had a horrifying fire season in 2020 that I thought would never end. But even if you know you’re well away from the danger of that wildfire, it’s a nerve-wracking experience, because some animal part of you knows that you’re only a gust of wind away from being too slow to escape.

This was the closest one of the wildfires has ever come to us. We were, I would like to say, never in any danger. The pre-evacuation zones never extended quite far enough east for us to start packing our car. And I think that’s only because the wind died down. Driving home, I couldn’t help but notice how much open space is near us, along the US-36 corridor, which is one way the fire traveled. If it had made it a bit further south, I’d be writing a very different post right now. As it is, I’ve been staring at a picture of a hotel in Superior in full flame, one that I’ve ridden my bike past on countless warmer days as I biked up the path toward Boulder. The destruction in Superior is devastating. At least 500 homes are gone, as well as commercial buildings. That number could go up to 1000 once the damage is fully assessed. The highway is still shut down.

I’m lucky. I didn’t have to evacuate. My friends who were in the evacuation zone made it out safely, and have now returned to find their homes still standing. The snow storm that pushed that deadly wind in front of it has arrived and is blanketing the desperately parched area with inches of white fluff, a day too late. So far, no deaths have been reported, and I hope it stays that way. Boulder County’s response was swift and well-communicated and if everyone got through this alive, it’s to their credit.

Ash falling from the sky as 2021 closes out feels like an omen, as much as I try not to believe in those. The old year burning, perhaps. I hope it’s only that and not a grim indication for 2022. For now the worst I got was a headache and a bunch of stress dreams, and I can be glad for that.

Hug your families. Keep pushing state and local government about climate change. This is not the last devastating fire we’re going to have as drought and heat continue. This is not the last December I will see where ash falls from the sky instead of snow.

You can donate to the Boulder County Wildfire Fund here.

2 thoughts on “Ash Falling From the Sky in December

  1. Reply JohnDel Jan 7,2022 09:18

    Do you have a bug-out kit in your car?

    If so, a list of what is in it would be interesting to those of us who live in places where we don’t have to bug-out at a moment’s notice.

    • Reply Alex Jan 14,2022 21:42

      I don’t, actually. I live in an area where we don’t get tornadoes (not that you’d necessarily want to bug out in that case) and we thought we were safe from wildfires because we’re pretty far into the city. This is making me rethink, though.

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