A wildfire burning close to Boulder has forced nearly 2,000 people to evacuate their homes. The Boulder Dome Fire started early Friday morning in open space west of the city. It’s now scorched more than 130 acres. So far, no homes have burned. And fire officials hope it stays that way.
The Boulder Dome Fire started in the same mountainous foothills where the Four Mile Canyon fire burned nearly 170 homes two months ago. This blaze is much closer to Boulder – Looking west down almost any street, smoke appears to pour out of the trees on the hills above the city. But Michelle Kelly with Boulder County’s Incident Management Team says this won’t be a repeat of that destructive fire.
KELLY: "I do know that this fire has not been as erratic as the Fourmile, and it has had less erratic winds. So that has been a better scenario for our firefighters and for their efforts."
TR 2: It also helps that today’s fire started much further away from homes than the Fourmile Canyon blaze. Even as firefighters arrived this morning, warm weather and gusty winds helped spread the flames along steep, dry hillsides. By the time emergency officials held their late afternoon briefing, the fire had grown ... but wasn’t threatening homes. Still, Rick Brough (Bruff) with the Boulder Sherriff’s department says the wind must die down before they can think about reopening evacuated neighborhoods.
BROUGH: "It makes it very difficult to talk about who needs to talk about, when we can let people back into areas, because we don't know what's going to happen until the wind starts blowing the fire starts moving in that direction. So that's why we have to be very cautious about the evacuations -- who we evacuate and when we let them back in.
Around two thousand people were forced to leave their homes because of the fire. Heather Shaffer was returning to her home from buying a Halloween costume when she realized something was wrong.
SHAFFER: "I saw all the smoke and just everybody standing in the street and actually a neighbor had come out and said she had just got a reverse 911 call."
Shaffer says she never got one of those evacuation calls. So she stayed in her house, waiting for firefighters to come through the neighborhood, but that never happened either.
SHAFFER: "It got really quiet, that's why I got nervous. There was like no one around. So I packed up the car and started pulling out and I realized it was so quiet because they had the whole area blocked off and so there was no one around."
After discovering their neighborhood had already been evacuated, Shaffer and her son made their way to the University of Colorado's Coors Event Center, where Red Cross officials have opened an emergency shelter. While women's basketball practice continued in the arena, a slow trickle of evacuees came in to register, toting suitcases, sleeping bags, and at least one angry cat. Jim Rettew is communications director for the Mile High chapter of the Red Cross. He says having just gone through the Fourmile Canyon fire helped them react quickly to this blaze.
RETTEW: "We were in this very facility less than two months ago. And the same people who responded in September are responding today and so that's a huge help because we don't have to figure out all the small things, like how to get on the internet, where are the bathrooms, where are the outlets, that kind of stuff. So we're practiced. Practiced makes perfect."
Emergency responders aren’t the only ones with a sense of deja vu. Many of the people being evacuated from the Dome blaze also had to leave their homes during the Fourmile Canyon Fire. Sheila Glow is one of them. She drove past the firetrucks on her way into town this morning. She assumed it was a medical emergency. That is until she got to a downtown coffee shop.
GLOW: "...And they said look out the window and I said, “Here we go again.” I had a dentist appointment and they wondered how I could stand to be sitting there and I said, “What can you do? There's nothing you can do."
Glow was leaving the shelter to meet her husband for lunch. She hopes the wind shifts away from her neighborhood and that she can go home soon. But Glow is used to this drill -- this is her third wildfire evacuation since she moved to Boulder hills.