Tuesday, June 18, 2013

State of the Apocalypse, Six-Seventeen-Thirteen Edition

On Tuesday 11 June, the worst wildfire in Colorado’s history ignited four or five miles north of me as the flaming ember flies. Fortunately for me and mine in the unfashionable south end of Briargate in north Colorado Springs, the wind was coming out of the south and those burning embers went deeper into Black Forest. And so a relatively small but dense forest (yes, it’s an actual forest) of spindly ponderosa pine, where the trees and their highly combustible duff are allowed right up to the doors of mega-million dollar mansions, went up in flames.

Over here in the crumbling split-levels near the intersection of Rangewood Drive and Briargate Boulevard we had to close our windows and listen to the bubble-headed bleach-blonde on Channel 13 tell us to turn on air conditioners most of us don’t have. The air was smoky, our nasal passages burned, and for a tense 48 hours it seemed like nothing was stopping this thing. I enjoyed my own half-hour of blood-freezing terror when the pre-evacuation was imposed on the area southwest of the fire—and mere miles to the northwest of me. A simple shift of the wind would have changed our lives forever, and you can bet no one would be broadcasting our sob story. No one cares if you’re losing everything you have when you don’t have much to begin with.

Fortunately, the wind held, and then we got a cool, damp break in the weather. What comforted me most, though, was knowing that, as it was rich assholes with cardboard-roof mansions (seriously, what was up with those?) getting inconvenienced, every hi-tech, heavy-duty, state-of-the-goddamn-art resource was going to be thrown at this fire. Chinook helicopters with big orange buckets buzzed our roof throughout that awful week. Modified DC-10s dropped slurry. Nearly a thousand firefighters from ten states were spread out on the ground, many of them digging breaks in the thick fuels that carpet much of Black Forest. 

Oh yeah, you came to the wrong neighborhood, Mr. Fire! No one’s gonna just let you burn and say, Oh well, what a shame, they should have cleared all that combustible material from their houses, they should have put on tile roofs, it’ll just have to burn itself out, nothing we can do, we don’t have the resources for this sort of thing. Too bad, so sad, hope y’all learned your lesson, okay? No, sir! 

The expression, “You made some poor choices and now you’ll have to live with the consequences” will be never be uttered because what’s grim gospel for one class of people is rank blasphemy for the kind who build 5,000-10,000 square-foot estates on acres of dry kindling. Honestly, even without the break in the weather, I doubt this fire would have gone on for much longer.

If you’ve ever seen Black Forest, Colorado, its dense concentration of trees, if you knew what years of drought can do to these trees, if you knew about Colorado’s dry, rainless thunderstorms with crazy lightning — if you’d known of the at first charming, then alarming habit of most residents to let the woods grow as close to their houses as possible, letting the debris from the trees fill the “yard” — you’d know this was a long, long time coming. It’s really a miracle the entire damn thing didn’t go up in a giant fireball, and that only two people lost their lives. And how about tonight’s cool, soaking rain? 

Praise God or call it luck, the hell of this is — this is going to be a summer thing from now on, isn’t it? Last year it was Waldo Canyon and Mountain Shadows. This year it’s all about Royal Gorge and Black Forest. So what’s next? Are we at least done for this year?

All I know is I’ve got to sell some zombie novels, pimp out this house, sell it at a loss, and get the fuck out of here. Right now is also a good time to inventory what I need vs. what I want to take with me, and how much of it I can move into the family minivan in ten minutes or less.

Incidentally, a good part of my novel The Resilient takes place in Black Forest, as it’s one of the best places to hole up when the dead are walking the Interstate and the main roads. For one thing, it’s just far enough away from the main population center. The trees would also mask your sight, smell, and most sounds you’d make that would attract them. For a few grim days I worried all of Black Forest would burn and I’d have to really radically rewrite the second and third acts of my book.

I worried, that is, while grinning in amusement. Seriously, who has these kinds of problems? Besides me and my weird-ass line of work, that is.

At least I got some chapters refitted in The Resilient and some posts up on this blog. The week wasn’t a total waste. Bring on the dancing girls!

I’d hoped to put this up in time for Flag Day but it’s been that kind of a week. I figure, hell, it’s Fourth of July somewhere, so here we go.