Our oldest son, Jace, called from Texas and asked us if we knew that there was a fire west of us in Black Forest. I didn't, but when I looked at the map, I knew it was really far away - west of us. I called Gommy and Dandy, my parents, to let them know that we were far away and we didn't expect any problems.
He told us to get the two trailers hooked to the van and the Bronco. We were now under a pre-evacuation. Steve and I made plans to pack the black trailer and the children up and send them to family in Denver.
I sat outside taking these pictures and waiting for Steve to get home. He was just a few seconds away, but it seemed forever. The eerie smoke cloud dropped more embers and ash, and had a horrible red glow in the inside.
We quickly packed up valuables. We went through the house, and I kept thinking and saying, "This wont come our way. It's all O.K." Steve, in his good man way would say, "O.K., we are just getting it together in case, but you're right, everything will be fine." It was weird going through the house and knowing that very little was truly "important". And we all grabbed the weirdest things - I guess they were "comfort" things.
Steve on the phone with family to let them know what we were doing.
Steve and I loaded the children in the van with the black trailer and sent our brave little souls to Aunt Kathy and Uncle Ronnie in Denver. Steve and I stayed behind with our animals, praying that we wouldn't have to evacuate.
About 10:30 p.m., Steve woke me up and said that we had to evacuate. We headed east to a near by friend who was able to take our two sheep and our two Angora rabbits. Steve and I then headed to New Life Church, where the Red Cross was set up. We went to sleep quickly, but not restfully. We knew the children were safe, and the animals were safe.
We woke up early trying to find out about our house. We knew nothing. At that time, I knew that I needed to get the children back with us. Noelani was just a few days post surgery, and needing to be on a special liquids only diet, plus, very little activity because of the hip bone graft site. But, maybe the more honest response is, I needed my family together, and Steve and I couldn't leave our home area. We needed to be close for what ever was about to come.
New Life staff graciously allowed me to put Noelani's medicine in their staff refrigerator. The Red Cross graciously swallowed their shock when I told them that our 12 children were here with us and we now needed 14 cots for the night; and that one of them was just 4 days post surgery, and we needed a place for her to put up her leg. On top of all this, someone stole my credit card and racked up over 1,500 dollars. So Steve and I headed out east to our bank to deal with this.
While we were there, with the children in the van, Jace (yes, he's in Texas, and was CONSTANLY watching the news to keep us up to date, because he knew we were "on the road", as it were), called to tell us that the New Life Red cross was having to move because of the smoke. Our first thought was what about Noelani's medicine and the Bronco and trailer that was parked in the parking lot. We drove back to the church and were able to get the medicine and the car/trailer. Now, we wondered were to go with a family of 14 ... to the new Red Cross shelter, or the friends who had offered their homes to us. It's hard being a family this size in a situation like this. We know what it takes to care for us all, to feed us, and to sleep us. As always though, the LORD had a plan.
The precious family what took our animals in asked us to stay with them, and a family that lives close offered for the rest of us to stay with them. So we split the oldest in one place and Steve and I with the others. These families blessed us with meals, beds, and baths! They had toys and children for our children to play with. This helped the little ones so much. Though they would constantly ask, "Are we going home?"
We heard from a neighbor that our area and our home was safe. We felt so thankful!; yet sad for all the families who had already lost their homes, and we wondered about those, including our own, who were still in danger. We went to a noon prayer time at our church. It was so encouraging, and I prayed with a family that had already lost their home.
Our home area was "bubbled", meaning the fire was south of us, then bubbled west of us and then back north. No fire came near us. Smoke, ash, and embers, but no fire.
Late Friday night, we were among the first of evacuees to find out what I had wanted to tell my children;
"Babies, we can go home."
The below picture show a bitter sweet photo. As we left our host family's home, this sun set sent us home - these pretty colors came from the fire ... a reminder of the sadness that still awaited us and so many. Our neighborhood forever changed by this - the most destructive fire recorded in Colorado; 485 homes destroyed,
14, 198 acres burned, two dead, 17 homes with partial damage, and many properties who are not yet verified as far as damage...
Tonight, we are thankfully home, still under pre-evacuations, but each day they gain more ground on the "Black Forest Battle". I have no words, but "Thank you", for those who have fought this battle to keep the fire away from my home, but THE ONE I send my most grateful thanks to is the LORD. I was ready to give it all to Him, and still am, yet, tonight, as I hear my children sing and laugh and play around me and as I remember Aiden saying, "Thank you, Jesus.", as he walked upstairs to his bedroom, I feel so many things;
gratefulness beyond words, sadness for those who still cannot go home, and for those who have lost their homes,
and a deep mourning mixed with hope for what the LORD has next for our community, and family. I keep having dreams and startling awake, and I know that this is just part of the journey. Our times are in His hands, and I rest in the midst of it all, for "The LORD is my Sheperd!!!!!"
Thank you all for your prayers and comfort during this time.