A little perspective

If you ever want an experiment in what’s important, try packing everything you value into two cars with danger at your heels.

I live in the foothills the Rocky Mountains, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Because of the Waldo Canyon fire, we had to evacuate our home on Tuesday, June 26th.  The fire started on the 23rd, so we had over 3 days to prepare–plenty of time. And yet, it seemed like a somewhat theoretical effort until smoke covered our neighborhood, a bizarre yellow light shown on everything, and ashes were literally falling from the sky.

In hindsight, firefighters stopped the fire 1.8 miles from my home, and 0.6 miles from my in-laws’ home. What seemed theoretical and just-in-case at first became starkly real on Tuesday evening when we went from voluntary to mandatory evacuation in about 20 minutes (not including the delay in receiving that information–yikes!).

First: bring what can’t be replaced.  Wife, check; daughter, check; cat, check; fish, can’t really transport on short notice. Also, bring photo’s that aren’t digitally backed-up (something to look into…), paperwork like marriage and birth certificates, passports, wills and life insurance documents, business paperwork, computers, other records, memorabilia, heirlooms, old daily planners, etc . If you’re a nerd–I am–bring underlined books (the others can be replaced, but the underlining can’t).  

Second: bring stuff you’ll need to get by for a couple of days like clothes, food and water, sleeping bags and thermarests, so you can sleep anywhere. Be prepared to find out that all hotels are booked and you may need to find someplace else to stay (in a town of 500,000, there aren’t 30,000+ hotel rooms, of course).

Third, other people can be amazingly helpful. My father-in-law owns a commercial building with a vacancy, so we had a place to crash that first night. We went to eat at Old Chicago’s, and the manager gave us our meal and drinks for free after he found out we had been evacuated (talk about a brilliant loyalty program). Before we even asked, we had 4 offers of places to stay in Colorado Springs, and 3 in Denver. After one night in the commercial building, my mother-in-law’s tennis friend, and her husband, gave us their home in Monument, CO while they went on a trip to Chicago to see family. We spent 3 nights there before returning to our home last Saturday (no damage whatsoever–thanks to the firefighters).

Fourth, everyone has a job to do, and I’m endlessly fascinated by the professionalism of people who do good work. From the beginning of the fire through today, I’ve been watching the intelligence, tireless efforts, and efficacy of firefighters, emergency-responders, police, utility operators, etc. This has been truly inspiring.

I’ve watched firefighters from the forest and city brief us twice daily, and this has given me a new appreciation and vocabulary (point protection, anchor, dozer line) to describe wildfires and how to fight them. Rich Harvey is the man.

I’ve also watched aircrews (helicopters and fixed wing) and firefighters fight the fire day and night for the last week and a half. They’ve had amazing victories (the fire is 55% contained at present), and terrible defeats (346 homes destroyed, 2 lives lost). It could have been much worse if it weren’t for the firefighters’ dedication and efficacy, but the outcome is still awful nonetheless.

All told, I have a new appreciation for what I own, what’s truly irreplaceable, the wonderful people I know, and for the people I don’t know, but can truly respect and admire from afar.

Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The opinions, estimates and projections contained herein are subject to change without notice. Information throughout this blog has been obtained from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but such accuracy cannot be guaranteed.

A little perspective