Tuesday, the 26th of June, started off as a beautiful day in Colorado Springs, if you ignored the towering plume of smoke to the west from the Waldo Canyon Wildfire.

The wildfire started three days before in the popular Waldo Canyon hiking area in the Rocky Mountains just off Highway 24. While people in the Colorado Springs area were concerned, there were currently eight other wildfires raging in the state of Colorado and over the past month arsonist(s) were suspected of starting up to 20+ wildfires. So, many had become inured to the sight and smell of smoke. Only one serious wildfire was known to be currently out of control in Colorado at the time, so concerns in the Colorado Springs community could be described as moderate.

Then, at 1630, that’s 4:30 P.M. for my non-military readers, the wildfire displayed its true personality. Driven by what meteorologist later described as “a perfect storm of weather conditions” and howling winds exceeding 65 miles per hour out of the West, the fire spread eastward toward Colorado Springs at an alarming rate.

The dark black roiling smoke blotted out the sun, which was suddenly no more than an angry red disc in the sky providing little illumination. The suddenly disobedient wildfire began marching, indeed running and leaping, relentlessly eastward voraciously consuming homes and lifetimes of memories. My wonderful wife of 32 years and I had all of five minutes to leave our comfortable foothills home, amid swirling, stinging, cloying black smoke, flying embers, and flames that danced over 100 feet high. It was simply a terrifying event. As we fled the wildfire with quickly gathered pictures, important papers, and little more than the clothes on our backs, neither of us thought we would ever see our home of 22 years or anything inside intact again.