Apr 042004
 
Authors: Marika Krause, Patrick Crossland

Amy Satterfield pulled away from her home on Thursday not

knowing if it would still be there when she returned.

“I’m pulling away from my driveway thinking, ‘Do I have

everything that I want?’ Well, there’s no way in hell I have

everything I want because I’d be folding up the house and taking

it,” Satterfield said.

The hypothetical question that most have pondered became a

reality for the CSU technical journalism senior lecturer. At 5:30

a.m., Satterfield was told she needed to be ready to flee at a

moment’s notice because the Picnic Rock fire was creeping toward

her home.

The Picnic Rock fire was accidentally started after a resident

of Poudre Canyon attempted to burn trash in his back yard. The fire

has spread from 350 acres to 9,158 acres since Tuesday.

” As I’m pulling out I’m thinking, ‘OK, you know what? Close the

garage door. It’s just stuff. That’s all that’s in there. It’s just

stuff,'” Satterfield said.

Though she sat anxiously in her office in the C-wing of Clark

Friday afternoon, she was calm and poised when recalling the events

of the past 48 hours. She had been advising students since 8

a.m.

“(I’m having a) terribly hard time concentrating. It’s actually

been a welcome distraction,” Satterfield said of her advising

appointments.

She was optimistic about the safety of her home.

” I think anytime there’s an evacuation the odds are good that

your home would be standing when it’s done,” she said.

Satterfield said it is not the structure of her house but the

natural landscape around it that makes the Bonner Peak subdivision

appealing.

“We’ve always said, ‘It’s not our house up there that makes it

worth it to live there. It’s the acreage of beautiful land around

us,'” she said. “That’s what makes it worth it. Is that going to be

gone?”

Experience with Evacuation

Mike Rosso dawned a smile and a white Red Cross vest as he

surveyed the gymnasium of Cache La Poudre Elementary School on

Thursday. The evacuation center may be the only place some evacuees

have to go, but Rosso, a Red Cross information officer, said

shelter is not the only amenity he school has to offer.

“Tonight we should see people who need to talk to a mental

health person, so we offer those services as well,” he said.

Rosso also worked with evacuees from last summer’s Hayman fire.

He said people have different ways of dealing with the stress of an

evacuation.

“It runs the gamut from a person who says, ‘Oh, that’s life’ and

just takes it as it comes to people who don’t want to give up a

home they’ve lived in for 30 or 40 years,” he said.

At 4 p.m. Thursday, the day of the evacuations, the volunteers

outnumbered evacuees at the center. Rosso said he hadn’t seen more

than 15 residents, which is typical.

“We’ll be real light on evacuees during the daylight hours, but

as soon as the sun goes down, I guess reality hits,” he said.

Many residents lingered at Ted’s Place – on the corner of

Highway 14 and Highway 287 — the original meeting spot for

evacuees, and were busy making arrangements for pets and

storage.

“It is interesting to see what people pack up,” Rosso said.

After securing the safety of their pets, people tend to bring their

heirlooms and pictures, he said.

“You see their lives,” he said.

Rosso said it is interesting to see what people leave behind as

well.

” All of a sudden your china and your DVD players and all of

your material things – they’re not necessary,” Rosso said. “It’s

the pictures. It’s the mementos of your life. That’s

important.”

The power of nature

After having learned that the fire had destroyed a home on

Thursday, Patrice Berglund, a resident of the Bonner Peak

subdivision, felt compassion for those who had experienced the

loss.

“It hurts me for them and it almost makes me feel guilty for

being one of the fortunate ones,” she said. “Although, at the same

time I may not be one of the fortunate ones. If the wind turns

tonight, I could be one of the ones that other people are feeling

sorry for.”

Burglund sat at a cafeteria table in the Cache La Poudre

Elementary School surrounded by neighbors after Larimer County

officials led the first community information meeting in the new

evacuation center on Thursday.

Just days before, she watched the fire creep closer to her

home.

“It humbles you – the power of nature and yet you’re in awe and

yet it is so terrifying,” she said. “It would be nice if you could

view it from a distance, because it is beautiful if you’re not

being threatened by it.”

Having lived in the Bonner Peak area for 17 years, Berglund

could not imagine losing her home and would not know how to console

someone who had lost his/her home.

“I would say, ‘What could I do to help?’ but those are just

words. And whatever you do there is nothing you can do that’s

enough. There’s nothing.”

It was difficult for Burgund to discuss the fire’s origin.

“I have so much more respect and value for the environment and

my neighbors that I would never even consider doing anything like

that,” Burgland said.

“When you see the level of destruction now, how could you live

with yourself? So I do have some sympathy for him,” she said. “But

at the same time, it’s like what was he thinking?”

Like many evacuated residents, Burgland has had to consider

things many never will. Everything from what she packed up to take

with her to what she left behind weighs in on the reality that she

may never go back to the house she calls home.

“We are presented with these challenges. What sets us apart is

how we handle them. You can’t anticipate how you are going to deal

with this.”

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