Waldo Fire hits close to home for GCU instructor

July 03, 2012 / by / 2 Comments

By Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau

When Michelle Post looked out from her home in Monument, Colo., last week and saw flames rushing down a mountain just 10 miles away, one thought kept coming to mind:

“Without a plan, the people will perish”: Proverbs 29:18.

The Grand Canyon University online instructor was one of the fortunate ones near Colorado Springs, Colo., who didn’t have to evacuate their homes in anticipation of the Waldo Canyon Fire – the most destructive in Colorado history.

But she was prepared nonetheless.

Flames and smoke from the Waldo Canyon Fire can be seen from a WalMart near Michelle Post's home in Monument, Colo.

“I’ll be honest, I panicked a little bit,” said Post, who teaches a Servant Leadership class for GCU. “The fire was originally 40 minutes away, but in that one evening (Tuesday), it started coming up the corridor.

“It tripled in size overnight and on Wednesday we had wind gusts up to 67 miles per hour coming through that canyon.”

Post originally heard that her home was on a pre-evacuation list, but it turned out she was just a quarter-mile beyond the cutoff for that procedure.

Still, she started making plans in the event she was next to hear the bad news. At one point last week, 3,200 people had been evacuated, 357 homes had been lost and two people died due to the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Post called her insurance agent to get an evacuation checklist; started boxing up her grandmother’s 100-year-old vases; prepared an emergency bag with plenty of food, water and clothing; made copies of key documents such as marriage and birth certificates; made sure she had extra food for her three cats; took full videos of each room, opening every closet and drawer; and informed her students that final grades for a class that had ended on that Sunday might be delayed just a little while she tended to more pressing matters.

“Some tasks you just don’t want to have to do, but it is better to get it done. We have friends who know people who lost everything because they didn’t get a chance to prepare,” said Post, who worked with her husband Larry to prep their belongings. “I prayed a lot. God gave me the house. If it was going to be taken, at least I wanted to be prepared for what I would lose.”

Post said the most unnerving moments came each night at 2 or 3 a.m., when she said the smell of smoke was strongest.

Michelle Post

“For some reason it was really intense in the morning. We live at 7,400 feet so we don’t have a/c and sleep with the windows open.”

The Waldo Fire, which has burned 17,920 acres, is now 70 percent contained. Less than 3,000 people remain under mandatory evacuation, and people like Post are feeling more secure in their homes. She even had time to finish all the grades for her class.

“The emergency crews have done such a tremendous job the last four days,” Post said. “We lost almost 400 homes, but it could have been worse.”

What’s more, Post looks at the support she received from friends and family, and the way her church and community came together to help those in need, and feels blessed.

“My faith was strengthened by the outpouring of so many people. … We had so many friends contact us and say, if you need anything, I’ll stop my day and come help you.

“There was some bad, people looting some of the evacuated homes. But that is the 1 percent. The other 99 percent showed an outpouring of goodness, ranging from money for families in need, helping firefighters, my church opening one of the first evacuation centers.  It reinforces that humanity still cares for one another.”

Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or bob.romantic@gcu.edu.


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2 Responses
  1. Wes Walter

    As a fellow Adjunct Faculty member and one who was evacuated along with three of my adult children and their families during the Waldo Canyon Fire I am glad that Professor Post did not have to evacuate.

    Our family was prepared as a result of also evacuating in 2002 during the Hayman Fire.

    Of our four families who evacuated, myself, my oldest son, and youngest son are all local law enforcement officers who worked the Waldo Canyon Fire even through our own evacuations, working up to 98 hours during the week the fire was most active. Fortunately, I was able to also continue teaching two online courses of which one was EMM 415 Disaster Response and Recovery in which I was able to give my students real time examples from the Waldo Canyon Fire.

    I must echo Professor’s Post’s comments on the amount of support and prayers offered up on behalf of our families including those of my students. I Praise God for all the Prayer Warriors!

    I drive Highway 24 to my home located at 9000″ everyday and while the fire changed all our lives, we are still very blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

    God Bless

    Wes

    Jul.05.2012 at 4:09 pm
  2. Michelle Post

    Wes,

    What an inspiration you are. I am so thankful for you and your sons, what a tremendous job you all did.

    Bravo! and Thank you from the depth of my heart!

    Michelle

    Jul.06.2012 at 7:35 pm
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