Black Forest Fire may be most destructive in Colorado history

By June 14, 2013

Colorado (MNN) — An assault is in full swing against the fire consuming Colorado’s Black Forest near Colorado Springs.

Planes are doing water drops; firefighters are spraying the flames on the ground.

According to CNN, the Black Forest Fire may be the most destructive in terms of property loss in Colorado state history.

So far, around 100 homes and 15,000 acres have been destroyed. The evacuation radius includes 13,000 homes and affects 38,000 people according to Sheriff Terry Maketa. Thousands of others linger in pre-evacuation mode.

All this is almost exactly a year after Colorado’s Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 348 homes. It’s really an issue of pros and cons. The pro from Waldo Canyon was that it moved in a wall of flame, so firefighters could beat it back. The con was that it was in a canyon and difficult for firefighters to reach.

The blaze in the Black Forest this year is different because it’s generally a flat area and easier to access. But the fire is bouncing around like a game of hop-scotch and difficult to keep up with.

Tim Glenn with Compassion International explains, “A tree will go up on the east side of the forest, and the wind will carry some sparks over to the north side of the forest; and now the north side is on fire. Firefighters are just having a heck of a time keeping up with the flames as they’re bouncing around."

Compassion's headquarters are in Colorado Springs, and several of their employees have evacuated their homes. Compassion’s headquarters are also under voluntary evacuation.

The heavy smoke is also causing problems, says Glenn. “If you could see an aerial view of Colorado Springs right now, you would see for miles and miles [a] trail of smoke from this fire. It’s just covering the entire city; it looks like a low-lying fog over the city, over our headquarters…. At my house, all the windows are closed; we can’t open any windows because the air is so bad.”

Glenn says they have a system to support each other within the ministry. “I can donate my vacation time to a fellow employee so they can get some time away to cope or manage. We also collect food and water and any kind of necessities that folks have for their needs while they’re being evacuated or holed up in a hotel…. A lot of our employees are opening their homes to coworkers and letting folks come stay with them during this time of evacuation.”

A woman on Glenn’s team lost her home and everything in it to Colorado’s Waldo Canyon Fire last year. She moved to the Black Forest of all places. With this fire now in the Black Forest, she had to evacuate again.

“You don’t know how to cope with it until it happens to you,” says Glenn. “Just the emotional toll that it takes on you: it’s been a year since the Waldo Canyon fire, and she’s still struggling and dealing with so much emotionally, as well as still taking inventory of the things that were lost.”

Glenn goes on to share, “I have another coworker who she’s not sure if her home is still standing, but it was her childhood home. Her parents lived there; it’s the place where she got married. [That location] means a lot to her, and not knowing whether it’s still standing [takes] an emotional toll.”

Fires in Colorado especially impact mission organizations as one of the epicenters for Christian group headquarters. Around 70 organizations are based in Colorado Springs, and more than 100 groups have a presence there.

Some other MNN partners in Colorado Springs include Biblica, HCJB Global, and Bibles for the World. Biblica headquarters are evacuated, as well as some HCJB Global staff.

You can be an encouragement by praying for Colorado. “Prayer heals, prayer restores, prayer also gives hope, [and] prayer also gives peace. Scripture talks about that peace [from God] that is beyond our comprehension…and we believe in that. It’s played a huge role,” says Glenn.

Here’s how you can pray: “Pray that firefighters would be able to get a handle on this fire, because as of right now, it is still zero percent contained. Pray for those families who have been evacuated, for those who have lost all their material possessions in this fire. And pray for our staff as we’re trying to deal with the unclean air.”

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