The morning began like most September mornings in the Rockies. The sky was clear and radiant Colorado-blue. Visibility: 200 miles-plus. The crisp dawn air promised autumn’s coming golden days. But before long, a powerful wind rose up and gusts washed the landscape like waves. They reminded me of the bands of wind and streaming clouds that forerun a coming hurricane.
This was a premonition that something big was about to happen.
By mid-morning a wisp, then a plume, then a roiling wall of smoke and ash rose into the sky over the canyons that snake up from west Boulder. In Fourmile Canyon near the historic mining town of Gold Hill, a spark had ignited and it grew into a flash flood of flames washing over pine ridges and homes, scarifying the montane landscape — the way a hurricane rakes a coastline.
Late in the afternoon the winds died back, like the lull in a hurricane’s eye. One hundred firefighters manned the lines and a fleet of air tankers dropped slurry to slow the flames racing up the canyon. It reminded me of the convoy of troops, trucks, and bulldozers that roll on to beaches and pick up shattered oceanfront homes after a hurricane passes.
Firestorm or water storm, the outcome is eerily similar. When residents return to a natural disaster scene, they will either find destruction or give thanks to be spared one more time.
To paraphrase Thomas a-Kempis: Man proposes but Nature disposes. There will always be something to drive home the power of nature: fire, tropical storms, earthquakes, floods, droughts, shifting soil, even weeds in your flower bed. It’s not a question of if we will experience the power, but when.
We can help ourselves by living as sustainably as possible with nature. From the mountains to the coast, the first decision in sustainable living is choosing where it is safe to live.