Colorado’s Black Forest Wildfire

On June 11, 2013 the most destructive wildfire in Colorado state history swept through the community of Black Forest. It killed two people, burned 14,280 acres and destroyed 509 structures, including my brother’s home and my home and business. It took nine days before the fire was 100% contained.

Black Forest wildfire near Firehouse on the Run BBQ

(Photo credit: Jeff Schickler, owner, Firehouse on the Run BBQ, Black Forest CO)

The day started off hot and dry, like so many others that summer. I was attending a professional luncheon meeting in Colorado Springs. Coincidentally, the speaker was Jerri Marr, the U.S. Forest Service supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel national forests. In June 2012, she was also the person who kept the public informed on the Waldo Canyon Wildfire which killed two people, burned 18,000 acres and destroyed 346 homes in the foothills on the western fringe of Colorado Springs.

Jerri spoke on Leadership Courage and how to be strong and serve as a model for others during times of crisis. She was a very good speaker and I took lengthy notes. Little did I know that later that day, I’d remember her words as our little community burned around us.

On the drive home from the luncheon, I approached our road and spotted smoke billowing from a small patch of pine trees with flames shooting skyward. I said to myself, “Now that looks bad. I hope someone’s called that in.” As I drove towards our home, fire and emergency vehicles raced by me towards the fire. It was about 1:15 pm. The fire had just started.

I remember thinking, “Oh, they’ll put it out. It doesn’t look very big. No need to worry.” But the winds had picked up and gusts were over 50 mph. The fire spread quickly. It started about four miles west of our home. By 3:00 pm evacuations had started and I was packing. Yet still I kept thinking it would be put out before it reached us. The picture below is of our home, a 1924 log cabin formerly owned by one of the first schoolteachers in the community.

Edith Wolford cabin before it burned in the Black Forest Wildfire

In this article, I wrote about what was going through my mind as we prepared to evacuate.

(Below) Video of the Colorado Black Forest Wildfire shows flames engulfing the area where our home stood. (Video by Wayne Laugesen)

We didn’t find out the cabin was gone until Friday morning (the fire started on Tuesday). I wasn’t eager to see the remains, but we finally drove out there and saw (below) what was left. The original fieldstone fireplace and chimney were still standing, but the stone and masonry was unstable, so we did have it removed. It was a shock to realize everything you had in the world was gone.

I will continue the story in my book, Wildfires of Change, which will be released in Fall 2016. You can also read more of our wildfire story at CabinMama.com

Colorado Black Forest Wildfire cabin burns