Plumtaw Fire: Close to home

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Reports of smoke began to inundate the Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center on Tuesday.

Always the professional, Emergency Communications Director Kati Harr suggested that we remind the public to sign up for emergency alerts. If you have not signed up to get notifications, stop what you are doing and sign up now: https://www.archuletacounty.org/569/Citizens-Alert.

After posting that notice on our Facebook page, we went home and evacuated our dog, Hunter. We live an the end of a road with no other exit unless you cut fences or take off cross-country.

The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office went to work going door-to-door notifying homeowners in the Lost Valley of the San Juans subdivision of pre-evacuation orders as the fire began to spread. 

They also started notifying hikers on the Fourmile Trail.

Our neighbors in Lost Valley of the San Juans were seen loaded up and driving down Fourmile Road Tuesday afternoon when their pre-evacuation notice turned into a mandatory evacuation notice.

Between trying to inform the public  about the fire and being worried about our own home up Fourmile, we found ourselves a bit disjointed and not thinking clearly.

We headed home to figure out what to pack.

Chandler Griffin at San Juan Basin Public Health was one of the first to reach out to help, which made us get a little more focused. It also made us wonder just what Archuleta County is going to do if La Plata County decides to walk away from the successful health district and we have to build from scratch what has developed over 70 years. 

We digress.

We found ourselves unable to think or focus between phone calls, messages, and the constant sound of air tankers and helicopters overhead. Those helicopters flew right by the window, over and over dipping into the reservoir for water.

Fellow staff members took over updating our website while we attempted to focus on the task at hand — packing. 

However, we found taking photos of helicopters and tankers circling the house won out over packing.

What was a 1-2 acre fire grew to 20 acres, 40 acres, 323 acres, 460 acres and more than 600 acres by dark. 

The fire stayed north of our house and the winds were in our favor, but our blessing was not a blessing to others.

Tom Evans Jr. posted on The SUN’s Facebook page: “Please keep us updated, I have a home on the lost valley. 231 spruce glen to be exact. It was the first cabin. Built in the valley.”

Our neighbors at Sonlight Christian Camp had moved buses and tractors and vehicles to a meadow in hopes to save them from the fire. Then they showed up to offer help at our house. Family came to help.

People called the house offering horse pasture and we had messages from people with trailers who wanted to help in any way that they could.

We were offered a place to stay by multiple friends and Erlinda Gonzalez even tempted us with green chile to come to her house. Who could pass up Erlinda’s cooking?

We kept trying to focus on packing.

Undersheriff Mike Le Roux called to provide updated information and inform of briefings. 

The Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office Facebook’s page noted that night: “We still have multiple resources on scene monitoring fire activity. The Town of Pagosa Springs will be inundated with smoke tonight through tomorrow morning as things cool down and the smoke settles into the valley.

“The Call Center is closed for the evening and will re-open at 0800 in the morning. Please call 970.422.7084 after 0800 for further information regarding fire activity and evacuations (where required). 

“At this time the only evacuation order in place was for the Lost Valley of the San Juans. All residents were evacuated safely during daylight hours. In addition, all recreational hikers on Four Mile Falls and Andersen Trail were also evacuated safely.

“There are currently NO other evacuation orders in place. 

“Crews will be on-scene first thing in the morning for a briefing at which time the incident will be handed over to a Type 3 Incident Management Team.

“Resources / Agencies involved today: United States Forest Service, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Archuleta County Road and Bridge, Mineral County Sheriff’s Office, Upper San Juan Search & Rescue, Pagosa Fire Protection District, Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, Local residents

“This has been a true multi-agency / multi-jurisdictional response. Updates will be provided as the incident unfolds.

“If you haven’t already, please register for Nixle on the Archuleta County Website. The link is pasted below. https://www.archuletacounty.org/569/Citizens-Alert.”

We never ended up packing regardless of our intentions on Tuesday. Thanks to those firefighters, helicopters, air tankers and other agencies, we did not have to leave our home. 

We were, however, reminded that having a list of things to grab is truly helpful at times like this. You would think that you could think, but we could not think clearly Tuesday.

There are plenty of lists online that you can Google and have printed out in case you have no power. Many people keep “go bags” ready to grab and go. 

Wednesday morning, we headed down for a 7 a.m. fire briefing, only to have our breath taken away by the number of firefighters from all over the place who congregated to help Pagosa Country. More would be arriving that day.

We appreciate those who reached out regarding our fire coverage. It has been a little bit challenging. 

On top of trying to pack, the SUN’s website has been on an unstable server for months thanks to a hosting company that requires you pay up front for three years and then tells you that you need to upgrade because they put you on an antiquated server. 

Thanks to so many who tolerate the slow speed of The SUN’s website and the frequent overloading of the server. If it goes down, give it a few minutes and it will come back up — we hope. 

The newspaper’s server has seen a huge increase in traffic over the past several months and we are working to find a solution.

You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pagosa.newspaper if our website is being temperamental.

With red flag warnings tomorrow, we all need to stay on alert.

Keep those who have been evacuated and our firefighters in your thoughts and prayers. 

We may even pack some things, just in case.

Terri Lynn Oldham House