Coloradans coming to terms with 'new normal' after active fire day across the state

Coloradans coming to terms with 'new normal' after active fire day across the state
Posted at 10:35 PM, Apr 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 00:35:49-04

BOULDER, Colo. — Wednesday’s fire at Table Mountain in Boulder County was relatively small, with no homes damaged or people hurt. But it is part of a bigger reality Coloradans find themselves grappling with — a fire season that doesn’t seem to have a start or end date.

Colin Laughery, a native of northern Colorado, spotted the Table Mountain Fire as he was getting ready for a run at nearby Lagerman Reservoir.

“I pulled over on Nelson, about a mile away, and the fire was raging,” Laughery said. “I was watching a bunch of horses get rounded up, and saw some people walking to tell [residents] to evacuate.”

According to Commander Vinnie Montez with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, the call for the Table Mountain Fire came in at 3:03 p.m. Within minutes, multiple agencies responded to control the fire during the windy afternoon.

“Our fire people have, obviously, dealt with a lot of fires recently,” Montez said during a press conference. “We’ve had assets standing by. We’re really, I would say, sensitive to making sure that we’re on top of fires as they come, especially on red flag days.”

It’s not only humans who have to seemingly be "fire ready" around the clock now — their animals have to be, too.

Jana Ward leads the Mounted Search and Rescue Team, which enters disaster areas to assist in animal evacuations. She says they are now used to getting deployed regularly, on a moment’s notice.

Thursday during the Table Mountain Fire, Ward and her team helped many get their horses to safety. Last month, they helped rescue llamas, alpacas, and sheep during the NCAR Fire.

“I had never handled an alpaca before, and I learned they lie down,” Ward laughed. “When they’re under stress, they lie down. So, that was new."

“The fires just keep happening. And now I think people are extremely responsive.”

Sara Spensieri, animal control specialist with the Boulder Country Sheriff’s Office, says the frequent fires are putting stress on their teams. That stress, though, is leading to opportunities for growth.

“It’s good practice for us,” Spensieri said. “Every time we do an evacuation, we get better for next time… This is going to be our new normal. I hate for that to be the reality, and I live just east of [Table Mountain]. But that’s what we’ve come to accept — that we all need to be better prepared to handle these types of situations.”