It’s been in the 90’s all week and our frail new grass was drying up quickly. I walked out the back door towards the barn and saw it: a giant plume of smoke very close. If you were in Colorado last summer, your gut remembers. If you have horses, it’s time to hook up the trailer. I watched the smoke plume turn colors and get closer. There’s an evacuation plan for our animals but I hate it. Any choices that involve leaving home are hard.
Kari called first, she has a large herd. Could the geldings come here? There is only one answer. An hour later, I almost didn’t recognize Margaret’s voice. Same answer. Dogs, too? Yes, and do you want to camp in the unfinished garage?
I was moving my horses and scrubbing muck buckets into water containers when the first horse trailers arrived. Kari’s six geldings put in the south pasture, and the trailers were gone, not a moment to waste with more horses to move.
Margaret and Bob brought their horses next, left the rig, and then went back for everyone else. Hours passed, I paced outside waiting for them, checking on horses and the visible line of fire on the northern horizon, creeping closer by the hour. The smoke was thick, even in the dark. At 11:30, Margaret, Bob and their son, Michael returned, along with three dogs, four cats and a couple of large bird cages.
Just as they pulled in, one last phone call; same tone, same questions, same answer. Stephanie, Tracy and their son, Kolbe arrived an hour later. Four sweat soaked horses came out of the their trailer. Dee at 33, was wobbly; she and the two older geldings went in the round pen. The younger mare went into a run. Their load included 4 dogs, 2 neighbor dogs, cats, an entire aviary of fancy chickens and ducks, one rabbit, and a travel trailer. They saw flames through the trees when they left their home.
Once everyone was settled, I checked the news one last time and the fire was 8 miles away. I wondered if we would all be evacuated from Infinity Farm in the morning. I woke up the Dude Rancher to let him know we had more company. The same answer from him, yes. It was 2:30 am when I laid down in my clothes, looking out a window towards the fire.
Most of us were up before 5, taking care of the animals and watching the fire line. Every few minutes a new plume of smoke, black and quick, meant another home gone. I made coffee, and invited our guests in the house.
Local news and Facebook exploded with offers for help, updates from friends, resources available. So much devastation, and at the same time, a firestorm of abundance and good will. I can’t imagine the dread our guests felt, but we ate muffins and smiled and were happy to say thank you.
Then chores; time to muck, fill water buckets, scratch noses. While we finished caring for our extended menagerie, some of us left to get supplies. I had to fight to muck my own pens, but I needed some therapy time too.
The first load of hay arrived mid-day. Kari posted a need on FB, and hay fairies Kris and John arrived, hauling over an hour to deliver it. Each errand trip our guests took brought more hay back as well. Later, Dan delivered more hay yet. It was like loaves and fishes, I have no idea how much we’ll need, or how long my guests will stay, but the horses are safe.
By afternoon, the wind kicked up hard, trees bent over, the sky filled with smoke. And it blew the fire away from us. There was no happy dance, we all have friends to the north.
Infinity Farm is a small place, with animals in every pen. There is an outhouse. Sigh. Our campground has no frills for sure, and friends in town offered rooms in larger homes than mine but everyone was right where they want to be- with their animals.
At dinner, Margaret and Stephanie remembered a recipe between them and made baked rice and chicken. There were 8 of us, so I put the table leaf in. I usually only do that on Thanksgiving, but that works too, for this group of good, animal-loving people and our many blessings.
As the sun set, the flames were a bit farther away. Both families had found out their homes were spared, so far at least. There was much relief, but no one celebrated, the evacuation maps were humbling. We were just 24 hours in, and it’s not near over yet. Just safe enough to sleep a few hours.
Wednesday dawned quietly, but we all knew the wind would come again later. Coffee, breakfast, news, and now what?? We survived the first day, but evacuation areas grew. So much destruction, but even as the wind blew the path of the fire north, there were still black fumes close and no one would be moving home soon.
So we let the old mare out to graze, Dee looks better by the hour. The chickens escape routinely, the dogs take turns in the yard. A very satisfied gray and white cat stares out the window of the garage. Eventually people took showers and I worked a horse.
Thank you for your concern and good wishes. We are the lucky ones, we have an embarrassment of riches. The Dude Rancher and I can take no credit, we just opened the gate to let this abundance in. Everything we gave is returned two-fold. Don’t worry for us.
First responders redefine courage by the minute, I am in grateful awe. Please bless all who are lost, soon to be found. And we do well to remember that our best assets will always be each other. Life goes on, be safe.
Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.
11 thoughts on “Firefighting, With Loaves and Fishes.”
I’m sobbing as I read this. Part fear, part relief … for now. My dearest long-time friend lost his brand new house (and every worldly possession he owns) in the first hours of the fire. We spoke briefly just after. I couldn’t compile a coherent sentence. You’ve been on my mind ever since and I’m so grateful for this update. I kid you not, I will get on a plane and come help you if you need an extra set of hands. The fire may recede, but the work never ends. [email protected]. Don’t be afraid to ask!
So sorry for your friends loss. These fires are heart breakers and we have way too many. I do think you would get on a plane!! Horse people are nuts! (I mean that in a good way.) Things here are on the upswing, folks can get back to their houses now (both families still have houses, thank God.) Horses will stay a bit longer to be safe. Thank you for your concern. It is appreciated.
This brought tears to my eyes. <3
We have new horses daily at Gamble Oaks Anna. The fire rages north towards us. Like you, we have a plan and pray not to exercise it. Stay safe my friend. We are on guard and stand ready to help.
Susan, I think we are past the worst of it… Hope your side of this calms down too. Thanks for you offer of help, I always know I can count on you.
Perhaps, this fire hurts more than the Waldo Canyon Fire last year, because so many people that I know and love live in the Black Forest area with their horses, dogs, and assorted critters. A dear friend had very little warning and evacuated hastily with two pairs of jeans and all her Rhodesian Ridgebacks. Her home and kennels are now a pile of ash.
But in the midst of the devastation to the land and properties, the generosity, care, and comfort provided by our incredible horse and dog people shine through. As fast as posts go up about a need, it is responded to and filled by those whose resources are still safe from the blaze. The community of Ridgeback breeders in CO have rallied by providing all the dog equipment needed by such a large breed and have organized to locate copies of many of the photographs of Patty’s dogs to restore some of those treasured memories for her.
Volunteers are now combing the burned areas for horses and other livestock turned loose by their owners as the flames rapidly approached. Hopefully, all will be reunited with their humans soon. Many equine facilities outside of the fire zone have taken in livestock of all sorts for owners frantic to find a safe place for their animals. Thanks to your warm and generous heart, Anna, you and other private horse facilities have provided a refuge for those humans and animals in danger. The Lowes, who host lure coursing field trials in Falcon, have taken in an Irish Wolfhound breeder and her sixteen dogs. In a scene reminiscent of “Jurassic Park”, these giants of the dog world wander over the acreage accompanied by the Lowe’s Salukis who are a bit bewildered by this strange invasion.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have comforted and sheltered God’s creatures great and small. From our hearts, we love you and are grateful to you. Animal folks remain the best there is in this world!
Oh Anna, I’ve been barely keeping the tears away during this time, and this nearly put me over the edge. My horses landed with a woman who I’d never met before the fire. Obviously I go out and clean up and feed them, but she cares for them and worries about them as if they were her own. I will never in this lifetime be able to thank her enough. During this evacuation she counted 85 animals and 12 people living on her six acres.
We had people from all over Colorado come to help us get hay for our therapy horses. Strangers in the parking lot where we all met up offered help. We only had a small window of time to get into Latigo and get the hay out of the hay barn and we required a police escort to get in. The police escort jumped right in and started loading hay right along with us. She wasn’t a horse person, but she understood how important it was.
I am amazed and humbled by the kindness of everyone who has opened their barn and their homes to friends and strangers.
It truely has been a horrible, magical, wonderous week. I am exhausted, bet you are too. Hope everyone is okay.
I guess I never thought that animals need humans , how stupid of me.. God Bless all of you for fighting to save The Lords creatures.. Please save yourselves in the midst , of the battle. I love you all . William R Hytinen jr .. Susan,s youngest brother ( Hytinen).. May the grace of God be with you.. 6/17/2013@ 7:52 pm from Mesa Arizona
Oh. My. Word. We talk about having an emergency plan here in south eastern PA – for hurricanes… for my 16.3 hh trailer shy boyfriend (I might actually have to ride him to safety). I can’t believe with all I have heard about the fire, I did not tune into evacuating the horses (dogs, cats, chickens etc). In Colorado. Doh. I am thinking of you, and all your guests. Scritches to everyone from me!