Our safety is in good hands | PostIndependent.com

Our safety is in good hands

April E. Clark
April in Glenwood
April Clark
Staff Photo |

For the last two afternoons, I have stepped out of the house, walked up a small grassy hill in the pasture so I could get a better view, and gazed desperately to the north.

My eyes, focused on the Red Canyon Fire, are dry and desperate.

Spanning more than 250 acres just southeast of Glenwood Springs, the wildfire broke out in a juniper-pinyon forest atop Red Canyon Road Monday afternoon. I have many great memories of taking my two dogs Jake and Elwood up that winding road to a place where we could walk in peace. Bluebird Colorado skies, the Western Slope Rocky Mountains, and the fragrance of the dry, and sometimes muddy, landscape, surrounded us. That quiet place on Earth is what makes Colorado the kind of paradise a girl never wants to leave. The drive up, and down, Red Canyon Road was heaven to my pups. They would run until they could barely walk with mud or snow, depending on the time of year, caked to their hairy paws. They inevitably would find something stinky to roll around in on the ground.

Perfect for the drive back down the hill.

When I look toward the smoky haze, the Red Canyon Fire seems so close. But I am about a half-hour from Glenwood. So it’s not as close as I think. Or is it? I really cannot judge distance.

Or time if we’re going to get real about it.

I certainly can’t decipher distance when mountains are involved. Nor do I have any idea what direction the wind will blow. I feel like anything could happen at any minute. It is a helpless feeling, and I’m not scared to admit I’m scared. I know it probably sounds like Flatlander neurosis, but wildfires are pretty new to me.

Tornadoes, not so much.

Sometimes, when I look to the north, I see a giant plume of grey smoke overpowering the white fluffy clouds. The wind is whipping my ponytail in all directions, and I have no idea what to think about it all. I’ve never been this close to a wildfire this dangerous. I moved here 10 years ago. That was after the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, which locals still tell stories about like it just happened.

I understand why.

Other moments, like this morning when I woke up at 8 and stumbled out into the pasture to gaze toward the bright sky, there seemed to be hardly any smoke at all. Like the fire was heroically snuffed out by the gigantic foot of a magic dragon named Puff.

Sorry, I was born in the ’70s. My imagination can get away from me.

Sometimes I just stand there, looking due north, in disbelief. I feel my stomach sink when I think about the fire crews out there from our valley, and the great state of Colorado, on foot fighting the fire. I imagine my grandpa Bud McAnany, a fireman for 40 years, in heaven — because that’s where he wanted to go — looking down over the fire, pining to be there, in the middle of it all to help fight. I could never be as fearless as my grandfather.

But I am a lot like him in other ways. I want people to be safe. I want to know the facts. I want to know what is happening in these types of situations so I can help people from harm. I just want to help. I know my grandpa kept a scanner at his house, ready to jump in as a volunteer First Responder at any time, even up until his 80s.

He’ll always be my hero for that.

That’s why the courageous men and women on land and in the air are fighting the Red Canyon Fire. From the smoke jumper crews from out of town to the local firefighters, I can only salute the heroic work being orchestrated to help fight a fire that is zero-percent contained. Tough terrain — just the kind my dogs loved to explore — and shifting winds are not making the fight easy. I hope I speak for my fellow Roaring Fork Valley residents when I say thank you with all sincerity and gratitude.

I trust our safety is in responsible hands.

As evacuations are ordered and people and animals are taken into shelter, I’m confident Western Slope communities will come together, as they always do, to make sure all can be done to help. If I’ve learned anything in 10 years, it is that the West can be wilder than we know. And that the people of this valley have big hearts.

I thank all the Red Canyon Fire crews from the bottom of mine.

— April E. Clark misses her favorite fireman of all time. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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