Wildfires and Common Sense

No matter how you look at it Woodland Park, for me at least, is an  ideal place to live. The climate is near perfect, with moderate temperatures, plenty of sunshine and low humidity. And with winters like last one where we netted only around 50 inches of snow, hey, that boarders on the tropical compared to Ohio.

But the downside is that even though we are in the mountains you can argue that this location like other parts of Colorado is actually high desert. So in years like this one where we have had a relatively small amount of snow coupled with thus far virtually no rain you have all the conditions for widespread and disastrous wildfires. Add in the elements of high winds, low humidity and no rain, and well, you aren’t in Ohio anymore and you better be ready to move and move quickly.

That happened right before we moved here in 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire erupted northwest of Colorado Springs and eventually led to the evacuation of about 32,000 residents, including some in Woodland Park.

The fires start for any number of reasons. Nature plays a role, with lightning strikes prevalent and dangerous. But some are caused by people just not having any common sense.

They apparently don’t know how to douse a campfire or how to conduct themselves in a designated area for target shooting without setting the forest on fire. And I guess being a smoker somehow gives them the right to flick the still smoldering butt out the window while driving or when going to pick up the mail. Assclowns.

Oh well. To quote the great American philosopher Forrest Gump: shit happens.

Unfortunately, so do wildfires.

As I write this post, there is a fire raging (photo above with credit to Colorado Springs Utilities and the Woodland Park Community Facebook page) about 15 miles west of my house near the small community of Florissant, with as of now more than 400 acres burning,  roads closed and some residents evacuated. Here’s praying for everyone’s safety and for a quick resolution. What makes this particularly scary I’m sure for longtime residents is that Florissant is just east of the starting point of the Hayman fire, which at the time in 2006 was the largest in Colorado’s history.

I haven’t heard as yet the cause for this fire near Florissant. Let’s hope it doesn’t fall into the assclown category.

But here are some other observations.

  • In a small community like this, timely and accurate information is golden, but not always easy to come by. By the time the Courier Journal, the local weekly newspaper publishes anything, this fire will hopefully only be a bad memory.
  • On the other hand, there is a system called Nixle managed I assume by local government and law enforcement agencies that sends alerts and updates to your mobile phones and email accounts. It’s a valuable service, widely used, and I’m sure greatly appreciated by those who subscribe at no cost.
  • Television stations out of Colorado Springs and Denver and the Gazette in Colorado Springs do a good job of providing as much information as they can when they can. But I suspect that in these situations most people turn to social media, primarily Facebook, for updates and eyewitness reports. Social media have many flaws, but they also are a tremendous resource when people are looking for immediate information.
  • The community really rallies together in times such as these, and the outpouring of volunteers who are willing to donate their time to prepare and serve food to the firefighters and others and who willingly give their money to purchase supplies is truly gratifying.
  • You better be ready to evacuate quickly and know what you need to take that can’t be replaced, such as important records and documents, medication and so on.
  • Times like these remind us how much we depend on firefighters and other first responders. And we don’t say thank you enough or appreciate their skills, dedication and sacrifices. Thank you.

So while our collective fingers and toes are crossed with this current fire, I guess the best we can do is approach the upcoming Independence Day holiday with a sense of optimism and dare I say it, common sense.

Published by

Rob Jewell

I’m Rob Jewell and I live and write in Woodland Park, Colorado, the City Above the Clouds. I've been fortunate. I worked for 29 years at BFGoodrich in Akron, Ohio. I started editing employee publications and ended as vice president of corporate communications. Then I started a public relations consulting company before becoming a full-time faculty member in the School of Journalism at Kent State University. I taught courses in writing, public relations and mass communication ethics. And I supervised a student-run public relations firm, called Flash Communications. During my tenure at Kent State I was honored to receive the university’s Outstanding Teaching Award. During most of this time I've been a dedicated runner. OK, jogger, if you take speed into consideration. But while my times are not much to write about, I was and am committed. For almost 30 years I ran at least 1,000 miles each year. (Except for one year when I tore my calf muscle playing tennis. So much for tennis.) Being on the road most mornings at 5 a.m. gave me some time to think. It also led to some amazing friendships that now span more than three decades. And my longtime love affair with running helped me shape my first novel, Then We Ran, which is available wherever electronic books are sold. And just so you don't think that all I did was work and run, I have other interests as well, many centering on family. My wife, Mary, was a successful and highly regarded career teacher in the Akron public schools. She now devotes her time and energy to a host of social and athletic activities in Woodland Park. My son, Brian, teaches at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs where he is also the head soccer coach. And my daughter, Jessica, has completed her doctorate at Kent State University where she is also an administrator with the Wick Poetry Center. I've done a lot of writing during my career -- but Jessica is the real writer in the family. I'll try not to make too many errors in this blog. I'm sure she'll be watching.

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