Limerick: Sitting squarely in town, historically means nothing to fires

On the evening of June 26, 2012, a friend in Idaho sent me a message with an urgent question. “Are you OK?” she asked. “The evening news just provided stark evidence that you all are now threatened.” Not far from where I live, when the Flagstaff Fire ignited, twenty-six homes were evacuated, and twenty-four households in Boulder went on pre-evacuation alert.

But there is compelling evidence that I was neither alerted nor alarmed. Here is the complacent, unrattled response I sent to my friend’s concern: “Thank you for thinking of us. We are a good distance from this fire, and we are squarely in town, not in the foothills.”

A decade later, I can only wonder what on earth I was thinking. How could I have been so confident that, since I was “squarely in town,” I could dismiss my friend’s concern for my safety as well-intentioned, but unjustified?

Embers are lightweight. An intense wind can make an ember almost animate in its migrations. My house is four blocks from the open space of grasslands and forests. If the location of the Flagstaff Fire had not made possible a quick response from firefighters, windborne embers would have had no trouble finding me.

In 2022, millions of us in Colorado’s cities and suburbs still reside in the intact, unscathed houses we occupied before Dec. 30, 2021. In the days and nights since then, every moment we spend in our comfortable homes offers a reminder: we cannot explain our own good fortune, nor can we explain the misfortune that the Marshall Fire brought to hundreds of people who — like us — lived “squarely in town.”

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Rereading our exchange from 2012, I am struck by my lapse into historical amnesia, forgetting a pattern that was almost universal in the Euro-American settlement of the American West.

In the last …read more

Source:: The Denver Post

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