If you live in Colorado, you know that you need to be prepared for a lot of different things. Blizzards. Tornadoes. Floods. Rockslides. Avalanches. And in 2012, you need to be prepared for Wildfires.
The Beer Drinker's Guide to Colorado crew is based in Colorado Springs, and we - like everyone else in this area - are dealing with the "new normal" that is now defined by the devastating Waldo Canyon Fire burning in El Paso County and Colorado Springs. All of us here and our families are doing fine as of today, yet we all grieve the loss of life, homes, habitat and security that have been consumed in this flaming, smoldering disaster.
Waldo Canyon Fire, which was first investigated as a smoke report near Manitou Springs on the evening of Friday June 22, has consumed over 18,000 acres of pine, grass, scrub oak, fir, brush, spruce and 347 homes. Two people are dead. It is Colorado's most devastating fire disaster ever, but is only one of ten wildfires currently out of control in the state. The High Park fire, over 87,000 acres, has been active since June 9th just west of Fort Collins, and a new fire that started two days ago has burned over 16,000 acres near Grand Junction.
Trinity Brewing in Colorado Springs was shut down during one of many neighborhood evacuations that have impacted over 35,000 people in three counties. Their lighted brewery sign was prominent during live TV coverage of the unbelievable flames that engulfed homes on the hillside located barely a mile west of the brewery. Trinity is open now, but staff there - like almost everyone in the state's second largest metro area - are keeping a wary eye on winds, smoke plumes and weather, hoping there is no repeat of Tuesday night's wall of 50 mph flames that could be seen, felt and feared from the parking lot.
Thank God For Firefighters
At Two Rascals Brewing in Montrose, new serving tanks arrive next week. But partners Daniel Leonardi and Brandon Frey might not be there to receive them personally. Both are firefighters for the US Forest Service, and they have been busy with decidedly non-beer tasks. Dan was on his way back to home base in Montrose, coming off the firelines in Northern Colorado and South Dakota. Brandon was awaiting his next fire assignment on the Western slope. Their all-important TTB licensing interview is scheduled for next week, and they are both looking forward to clearing that hurdle by telephone, wherever they may be assigned to fire duty.
The real work of firefighting is done by hand, on the ground, by men and women wearing heavy protective clothing working in 100+ degree heat carrying chainsaws, Pulaskis, and safety equipment in rugged terrain. It's also done from the air, with aircraft of all sizes dropping water and fire retardant in big football-field-sized areas impossible to access on foot. Over 2000 firefighters have been working the Waldo Canyon fire alone, and we cannot thank them enough. They've come from all over the US to help keep our communities safe, and all we can say is: thank you, thank you, thank you.
President Obama came today to view the aftermath, hear pleas from Colorado Springs Mayor Bach for cash, and thank a few firefighters, too, at a photo op in a ruined neighborhood. News reports flashed scenes of total devastation: charred chimneys, piles of ashes, smouldering foundations, torched automobiles. The world sees complete destruction and makes comparisons: San Francisco, Dresden, Nagasaki, Banda Aceh, and now Colorado Springs.
It's not all gloom and doom. Colorado is a big state, and even with over 165,000 acres testing firefighters, there's still a lot of land to enjoy and contemplate in its natural state. As Governor John Hickenlooper pointed out during a news conference, "While 400 campsites statewide are closed, another 10,000 are open and ready for campers from around the country to use and enjoy."
Fight Fire with Beer
The governor will co-host a "Fight Fire with Beer" Festival on September 15th in Boulder at the 29th Street Mall. As part of Firefighter Appreciation Week, one festival goal is to is to raise funds for the material needs of firefighters across the state of Colorado, and to educate the public about fire safety. At the festival, local brewers will be asked to compete in brewing the Best Beer for Fight Fire With Beer Governor's Cup, to be judged by Colorado fire chiefs and Governor Hickenlooper. The winning brewery will have the honor of creating the official "Fight Fire With Beer, Beer", and will be featured in bars, restaurants, and made available for retail sale.
In the numbing loss and devastation of wildfires throughout Colorado, we can find a lot to be thankful for and hopeful about. We can be thankful that things are not worse. And we can be thankful for the spirit and generosity of people who reach out to help others who are displaced, evacuated, and affected by wildfires. We urge everyone to pitch in however they can, donate a few bucks to Red Cross and Care and Share. Thank a firefighter or two. Buy 'em a beer. Get your own act together, so that when the cops call in the middle of the night telling you to get the hell out of town, you'll be ready to go. It's not always all about the beer...
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
A C-130 drops fire-retardant slurry on the Waldo Canyon Fire burning precariously close to Cedar Heights, a neighborhood on the west side of Colorado Springs.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
Flames rage just north of Manitou Springs.
Photo by Mike Laur © BDG2C
Smoke plumes rise high above the Front Range as the fire feeds on extremely dry vegetation and unusually high temperatures.