A few minutes on a news update. Shocking pictures of smoke plumes as we scroll. The smell of campfire in the air. We all know the Cameron Peak Fire is a big deal. However, it's much different when you have had to leave your home, not knowing when you'll return or if you'll have a home left at all.

Two people close to me have had to evacuate their homes west of Fort Collins. I asked them to share some words of what it is like to evacuate, and wait.

My cousin Sandi:

You take what you need to survive for a few days or weeks (clothes, smart shoes, meds, (pets and their stuff!) computers/phones, etc) and what you can't replace (artwork, old photos, special things).

You load and back your car out of the garage and face it down the driveway before the call comes. Time permitting, you close all vents and interior doors to prevent drafts. You turn lights on to make your home easier for firefighters to see through smoke. You take photos of every room in your house and all your stuff. Of course, you think back and wish you had taken more things or other things.

You have regrets. You pray even though you're not a religious person. You count the things you are grateful for and remember stuff can be replaced. Yeah, easy for me to say now. Ask me again tomorrow. I'll tell you what I did make sure to grab! My ballot.

My friend Judea written on October 18, 2020:

In a year filled with endless stressors, this has been one of the most stressful times for me and all too many of us evacuated from the fire.

I am trying to push the stress aside and instead be filled with gratitude for the firefighters and hundreds of personnel who have been working around the clock to save our homes. Their efforts have been nothing short of miraculous and extraordinary. It is hard to even comprehend how many people are coming together to do something impossible.

As of right now, the impossible is possible. Our home and the homes of our neighbors and friends are still standing. The fire has not crossed County Rd. 38 E., which represents the "last" possible break before entering our neighborhood.

Yesterday, we held our collective breaths and braced for the worst as the fire jumped across the Buckhorn Road on the southeast edge of the monster wildfire and entered Redstone Canyon. This is a gorgeous sandstone canyon that we can see from our windows which transitions to a sloping prairie called Buckhorn Heights.

My friend whose house is just south of ours on Milner Mountain and who is also a former Forest Service employee tried to comfort me with the fact that fire moves downhill four times slower than it climbs. We huddled around the computer screen in borrowed camp chairs and watched images from the doorbell cameras of neighbors as the flames bore down on us and we could do nothing but sit and wait and hope. I told my kids that until the Sheriff called to say our house had been destroyed, we weren't allowed to cry. That lasted for about an hour and then we all dissolved to tears during most of the early evening.

We tried to remind ourselves that it's just a house and we are all safe and alive. However, as I think everyone who is sitting comfortably tonight in their home reading this... a home really is a powerful foundation for our lives, especially as we find ourselves going to work and school from the relative comfort of our houses.

I cannot quite describe the feeling of rejoice this morning when I stepped outside and felt the mist on my face and breathed the crisp, clean air. My relief was also tinged with the knowledge that others were waking up to devastation. We know homes right across the valley from ours were lost yesterday. Our near miss was someone else's tragedy. My heart aches for those families and their loss.

Our struggle is not over. We are in a rented home for the next five nights, hoping and watching, for the fire to be officially contained so that we can go home. The weather over the next few days will determine much and we could just as easily find ourselves holding our breath again as we did this past Saturday night.

In the midst of this helplessness, we are donating to the American Red Cross who is helping house people displaced by the fire. Many of you have asked me what to do to help -- thankfully my family and I don't need help right now -- that could change at any time and I will let you know. For right now, if you are moved, please donate to the Red Cross. The Larimer Humane Society and Volunteers of America are also helping with the effort.

Since I joined Mountain Sage, I have greatly appreciated the power of our community. Tonight, once again, I am reminded that community is what makes our lives possible. I am grateful to be part of this whole big wonderful Northern Colorado.

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