Coming from Colorado a state that certainly has its fair share of summer and fall wildfires, most often driven to the point of catastrophe by strong winds, that was my first thought around this topic, mountain, and foothill forest conflagrations. My only significant experience with a wildfire was the major smoke-filled air pollution here in Denver from the Hayman Fire that started on June 8th in 2002. The smoke made it hazy just to look across the street, with ash falling from the sky in parts of central Denver. It was nearly impossible to see beyond a few blocks. The fire started about 22 miles to the southwest of Denver. I believe it still holds the record as the largest wildfire ever in Colorado history burning 138,114 square miles.
I was living at the time in a house on South Logan Street with my second long-term partner who was also named David, as was my first long term husband. We had no air conditioning or swamp cooler. As I recall the real summer heat, temperatures in the 90’s and very low humidity, had already arrived. We were OK, though not particularly comfortable, closing up the house and relying on a portable evaporative cooler. It only held a few gallons so frequent refills were needed.
David, again my partner at the time, was a smoker and could only smoke outside. Having never been a tobacco smoker myself I did not understand why he could not just stick his head out the door, take a couple deep breaths and call it good.
There were tragically 6 fatalities associated with the fire. The only very small bright spot for me and a couple friends were the morel mushrooms we gathered in great abundance the following spring of 2003 in the burn scarred areas. In particular we would often find these delicacies in the caterpillar tracks of I believe north facing slopes where fire debris clean up had occurred in the national forest. We literally found several bucketful’s of about a gallon each. We photographed our haul on retuning to my friends’ cabin but alas the photo has been lost so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
So there have only been two times that I can recall in my 48 years in Denver where people on the streets could be seen wearing facemasks. The first was during the 2002 Hayman fire and the second is occurring right now in response to the COVID-19 epidemic. As I sit writing this piece for the Monday April 6th Story Telling and glancing out my window I see many, though by no means all folks walking by wearing masks. Many of the masks are of the homemade variety and often quite colorful. And despite the admonition yesterday from the Governor that we should all be wearing them many are still not. I am not sure of the medical necessity of masks when walking outside on a sunny day with a nice breeze. It is I suppose theoretically possible to get infected under those conditions but that would be one badass piece of luck.
When I went out walking and grocery shopping today I fashioned a facial covering from a bandana I was able to dig out from the back of my underwear drawer. It makes more sense to me to wear something when in a grocery store as opposed to being out on the street. There may also be great utility in wearing one if you are infected but asymptomatic, which of course you would not be aware of so wear the damn mask when ever you are in closed space at least when with others.
Speaking for myself I can say I believe my stories for this group have largely exhausted my life experience and were quite frankly getting a bit stale. Well this fucking pandemic seems to have addressed that little dilemma. Looking ahead at future topics I can already see many ways to incorporate personal corona virus drama into my writing.
Addendum January 2021: Due to the disastrous fire season in the summer of 2020 sadly the Haymen fire is no longer the largest wildfire in Colorado history. Also, I have located the photo of the large mushroom haul in 2003 and will attempt to get it scanned into the website.