Coloradans stay resilient in the face of disaster

Posted at 8:47 AM, Jul 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 10:47:03-04

At 100,000 plus acres, the massive Spring Fire is now the third largest wildfire in the history of Colorado.

Thousands have been evacuated, homes have been destroyed, and lives have been changed forever. 

Despite the tragedies that have befallen them, many Coloradans have stood strong in the face of the fire’s wrath. 

Dane Tessler is one of thousands evacuated by the fire in the Tres Valles subdivision as the flames on the north side of the fire pushed closer.

"I camp up to this corner to take some pictures, thinking that we were in the clear. Then all of a sudden, as I’m watching it, the winds changed and it started coming down that valley and I saw flames." said Tessler. "No real plan, really. Gonna watch and see if the flame comes down that valley. I’m hoping it’s not. It looks like it might not, but I’ve been wrong 100 times so far with this fire. It has a mind of its own."

Those changing winds are one of the reasons the Spring Fire has been so challenging for firefighters. That peculiar behavior has split the fire into two distinct plumes.

"We’ve created conditions where we can’t put out this fire. All we can do is try and keep it from burning the things that people don’t want burned," said Rocky Mountain Incident Team Black.

Walt Lynn was sure his Tres Valles home was gone when the north end of the fire pushed east on a direct path for the subdivision.

"I watched the flames come over into the valley where we live and thought for sure we had lost the house, and left that afternoon pretty distraught," said Lynn.

It turns out, Walt was wrong. He would learn later that his home was spared thanks to the work of the firefighters, hot shot crews, tankers, and helicopters.

"You can see there were graders and all kinds of heavy equipment headed up toward the north side of the fire. They literally are going to be putting a dozer line around all the houses and communities up there that they can get to," said Incident Team Black. "This is a natural disaster. Unfortunately, we can only meet it with human decisions, human knowledge, and human skill."

Luckily, many of those humans making decisions are some of the nation’s top firefighters.

As we moved into Independence Day, folks in some towns near the fire saw some relief as crews were able at least able to hold the fire in some areas. They also saw a lot the same things they might normally see on July fourth, but for different reasons.

Fire trucks were still parading through towns, but many weren’t there to celebrate our nation. The were often joined overhead by helicopters flying through on their way to drop water and retardant on the flames.

"Literally, to take a breath and not see that monster plume that has been lingering for days and winds stirring her up," said evacuee Heather Curtis. So today has been an incredible deep breath and feeling better."

The weather over the last couple of days has improved, with cloud cover cooling down the fuels, making it harder for them to burn, and giving firefighters an advantage they previously didn’t have.

"There’s been some amazing firefighting that’s occurred," said Incident Commander, Shane Greer. "Everybody involved, local firefighters, and we’ve brought firefighters in form all over the country. All combined, they’ve done an amazing job and protected a lot of homes."

Nobody is out of the woods yet, but the people in these communities are here for the long haul, no matter what happens.

"There’s just something very special here, and we all want to be here," said Curtis. The people that know about the special magic in this, just this whole valley, we have to be here."