Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Olde Stage Road Fire: Days 1 and 2

Day 1
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Caption: The Olde Stage Road Fire burns north of Boulder, Colo. Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. Firefighters were evacuating neighborhoods and battling three blazes in the area while intense winds fanned the flames.

Upon receiving a news tip from a good friend, I ditched my "Wind-damaged roof repair" assignment and headed west towards the huge cloud of smoke that hung north of Boulder. I first came upon a structure fire at a llama ranch called Rocky Mountain Llamas, where firefighters allowed me to walk right up next to the scene.

The wind was howling. Gusts were far over 60 m.p.h., which only fed the fires. The wind, combined with the smoke made it very difficult to focus on anything through the camera. I was getting tossed aside constantly. The house was completely engulfed in flames when I arrived and burnt to the ground in a matter of minutes. All that was left was three smoke stacks from the fireplace and an empty whole in the ground.

Once the llama ranch was under control I decided to head up to the big fire on the mountainside. All of the immediate roads were blocked off, so I took a few guesses on the back roads and actually found my way on the first try. Horses began emerging onto the road out of the smoke where trailers waited to take them to safety. I ran to take pictures of that, but when I got there, the trailers decided to drive up to the ranch where the remaining horses were and the fire was approaching quickly from behind. Impulsively, I asked to tag along, not really thinking about what I was getting myself into, but taking the advice of my press photo teacher in college (Kevin Moloney) who always encouraged us to get in cars with strangers...

The road up to the ranch was clouded in smoke and each driver of the five trailers was determined to bring the remaining horses down to safety.Up at Joder Arabian Ranch, volunteers, fireman, and animal rescue personnel worked together to hold the flames back and herd horses into trailers. The fire crept closer and I was told finally that I needed to leave (which I was secretly relieved about).

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Firefighters from several districts battle the Olde Stage Road Fire at Rocky Mountain Llamas, 7202 45th St., Wednesday Jan. 7, 2009. Downed electrical wires, caused by high winds, were thought to have started the fire.

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Due to a downed electrical wire, firefighters battle smoke and flames at Rocky Mountain Llamas on North 45th Street on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. The sparks apparently set the grass on fire, and the fire spread to a barn and a house, according to the scanner traffic.

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A fireman from Mountain View Fire District takes a break while fighting the fire on the property of Rocky Mountain Llamas Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. The fire on the property may have started due to downed power lines.

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Volunteers from Sombrero Ranch bring five trucks and horse trailers to help evacuate horses from Joder Arabian Ranch and other ranches in the area during the Olde Stage Road Fire Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

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A volunteer drives a trailer up to Joder Arabian Ranch to help rescue about 50 horses from the Olde Stage Road Fire that broke out north of Boulder on Wednesday, Jan 7, 2009.

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As the Olde Stage Road Fire approaches the west side of Joder Arabian Ranch, spooked horses run away as volunteers try to direct them into a horse trailer on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

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A volunteer helps to rescue about 50 horses as the Olde Stage Road Fire approaches the Joder Arabian Ranch along U.S. Highway 36, north of Boulder, Colo., Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 7, 2009.

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Firefighters at Joder Arabian Ranch, just north of Boulder, hold back flames from reaching the ranch during the Olde Stage Road Fire Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

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Volunteers rescue about 50 horses as the Olde Stage Road Fire, fanned by high winds, approaches Joder Arabian Ranch along North Foothills Highway north of Boulder, Colo. Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

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A horse, that was rescued from approaching wildfires at Joder Arabian Ranch, north of Boulder, peers through the side of a trailer during the Olde Stage Road Fire, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

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Firefighters work to control a wildfire during the Olde Stage Road Fire at Joder Arabian Ranch on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009.

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Smoke covers North Foothills Highway north of Boulder, Colo. Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 as the Olde Stage Rod Fire burns out of control.

Day 2
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Caption: A log smolders along U.S. Highway 36 north of Boulder on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.

After a long day Wednesday, I set out early Thursday morning to cover the aftermath of the fire. I returned to the Llama ranch to check in on the burned down house and to hopefully meet the owner. She showed up shortly there-after and was immediately swarmed by lenses and notepads. I thought to myself, "This is my least favorite part about this job. I would be the last person I would want to see if I were her." So I slid around quietly taking pictures and avoiding being pushy, waiting for my turn to be alone with this woman. I felt so bad for her. She had just lost literally everything she owned, memories from nearly 80 years of life, and her late husband's urn. It was cool to watch how her friends swept in to take care of her in every way imaginable. She was even offered a luxury trailer to live in until she had a new home.

The entire experience of this fire has been crazy. I realized back in the office that I have never had any sort of fire training...that I had literally no idea what I was doing out there. With timeliness though, I was filled in on some tips today, now that the fire has been put out.

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Bobra Goldsmith recalls how quickly the fire engulfed her house yesterday at Rocky Mountain Llamas, 4500 Neva Rd., Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.

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Lynley Nichol keeps an arm around Bobra Goldsmith as they look over the remains of Goldsmith's house, which burned down yesterday by a downed electrical wire at the Rocky Mountain Llamas in Longmont Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.

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Tony Gamberg of Boulder Fire Rescue puts out a few hot spots in the rubble of Bobra Goldsmith's house, which was burned down by a downed electrical wire yesterday at Rocky Mountain Llamas at 4500 Neva Road, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.

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Kris Paige embraces Bobra Goldsmith as she arrives to Rocky Mountain Llamas, where Goldsmith's house caught on fire and burned to the ground by a downed electrical wire yesterday. Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.

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Bobra Goldsmith walks around her burned-down house for the first time, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009. She regrets losing her artwork, grand piano, and her deceased husband's urn the most, she said.

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L'illete Vasquez rounds up llamas and alpacas that escaped yesterday from Rocky Mountain Llamas at 4500 Neva Road after a fire broke out and burned down a home. When she arrived this morning, they were all out on their private road, she said. Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009.

3 comments:

Joshua Buck said...

Great work, Morgan! You did a fantastic job and you'd be surprised how some people don't mind having their story told under dire circumstances.

Joshua Duplechian said...

Way to stay composed in such a hectic situation Morgan. I'm truly enjoying your vision.

Alex Loddengaard said...

Rad photos, Morgan!