Waldo Fire hits close to home for GCU instructor
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.
“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.
“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 [email protected].