My scary urban grassland fire adventure: Colorado’s Marshall Fire

I usually plan my weeks in winter based on the weather forecast. Last Wednesday the 29th was supposed to be a cold day in the upper 20s to low 30ths. But the next day called for warmer temps but with high wind warnings. I decided to run in the colder temps on the 29th. I like running in the cold but windy weather can be a bitch. Little did I know.

The run went well and I felt refreshed. I slept well that night and I felt energetic the next day. I first stopped by to feed the dog I was pet-sitting and then I did a Walmart run and got stocked up on groceries. On my way over I pulled over and took a pic because the skies were so beautiful.

Taken from the Walmart parking lot in Broomfield. Views like this are why we live here.
December 30th started out as a beautiful, albeit windy, day

After getting home and putting away the groceries, I went up to my husband’s office to talk with him about lunch plans. We decided to order some food from a local Vietnamese restaurant. Then I looked out the office window and noticed a huge plume of smoke to the NW. The smoke was darker than a typical brushfire, indicating that it was already burning structures. We could tell it was in the Marshall Road area, probably about 5 miles away as the crow flies (hence its given name – the Marshall Fire.) Before picking up the food I drove to a local viewpoint and took some pics. When I picked the food, I showed the owner whom I know very well some video. Like me, he agreed it was concerning but we didn’t think too much about it just yet. We’d see.  I got home at about 12:30. Shortly thereafter I got a reverse 911 call and a message at 12:50. This was an evacuation warning call. My son and I both packed and I drove down to retrieve my friend’s dog. People were already leaving the neighborhood and the streets were jammed.

Smoke over Rock Creek (south of Coalton) subdivision in Superior My first warning of the fire of impending doom (about 11:45)
looking over Old Town Superior. Much of this would burn (about noon)
Headed north on McCaslin toward Old Town/Downtown Superior. (about noon)
Cars starting to back up as people rush to leave around 1 pm

My husband didn’t think we needed to leave. Yes, the streets were a mess, but still I was nervous. Finally, while he was watching the live stream, he could see that it was about 1.5 miles away from burning through a local greenspace park just across a main street in our community. And then I saw streams of cops headed up to our street. I yelled at him it was time to go. My son and I packed up the dogs and the cat, suitcases, my emergency grab bag (important papers), and sleeping bags. My husband drove his own car. Good news was that when we left around 4:15 the streets were clear. Many people were watching from above our house on Hwy. 128. As I drove I could see the fire in the early evening sky. It looked scary and horrible.

My son in Denver had just recently moved to a large loft apartment with 2000 square feet. The only thing I forgot to bring was the dog bed for my pug and my Melatonin.  We all went to bed at 10 after watching the live streaming news all evening. It appeared that our house was going to be safe but winds can change on a dime. They had died down but neighborhoods were still burning. I barely slept a wink that night.

Pet party during evac
eerie image of our town burning

We got the all clear the next afternoon. I had actually sent my husband home earlier as he has a sports car and it was starting to snow. My friend had already picked up her dog so it was just the pug and the cat and my son in the car. Not quite so crazy.

We had no gas for the next day, but we were lucky to be the first in the neighborhood to get ours turned on since they needed to do the gas line purge for the neighborhood from our house. The next problem was the internet. We couldn’t watch TV but our phones were working well at the time. But as more people returned, our speeds and coverage got worse and worse. Finally the internet came back on on Monday night. I think people were dancing in the streets (seriously, this was worse than a 50 degree house.)

Our neighborhood in Superior was lucky. But others were not. Sagamore, Old Town, and Rock Creek north of Coalton all suffered damages. Sagamore was wiped out (over 300 houses). Old Town was next with over 200 houses, both old and new. The neighboring town of Louisville suffered heavy damages as well. Luckily the hospital, Home Depot, Lowes, and schools were saved. Currently, Costco, Target, and Whole Foods are closed. Target suffered the worst damage. Probably about 2 dozen small business were damaged or destroyed. Total house count is around 1000. Plus many houses suffered horrendous smoke damage.

I have included just a few pictures from the day after the fire. With snow covering most of the burn areas still, it’s difficult to take many pics. Plus, out of respect, I have decided to only take general panoramic shots of the area and not individual houses.

The same parking lot from which I took pictures the day before. It burned up and over this hill.
I’m not sure why this car was left here but honestly I think they should keep it as historical relic of the fire.
Courtesy of Cactus Wax Studio adjacent to Target in Superior.