Chicken Little Syndrome

There is smoke in the air, but the sky hasn't started falling yet.

After an extremely dry March, usually Denver’s snowiest month, wildfire season appears to be officially underway. The Lower North Fork Fire has burned 4500 acres so far. From my backyard last night, I have to admit that the smoke, fanned by strong winds from the southwest, looked ominous. I took photos of it and then sat back down to watch my recorded episode of Mad Men. We slept with the windows closed last night because of the heavy smoke, but this is not the first time we’ve had to do this so it was not unusual. We slept soundly.

This morning I was pleased to note that the winds were no longer blowing the smoke in our direction, which meant my boys who are home for spring break could go out and play with friends without smoke inhalation concerns. Around noon, we went for a 4-mile hike with friends up Waterton Canyon. We saw about 35 mountain sheep and had a picnic lunch. There was the faintest scent of smoke in the air, but nothing about which to be alarmed. Tonight when I finally had a moment to hop back on Facebook, I could not believe the amount of chatter about the fire. We live 5 miles outside the evacuation zone, but from the hefty number of posts our neighborhood Facebook page received today you would think that we were in immediate danger of Armageddon.

A resident who also happens to be a firefighter tried to quell the rampant concerns. Posts flew back and forth with links to maps of the fire evacuation area and sites where you can register your cell phone for reverse 911 emergency notification. Now, I’m all for safety and for being informed of potential danger. I will admit that hubby and I have twice now discussed what I am to throw in the car if we receive an evacuation notice. We have not, however, set anything aside for immediate packing. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if I took any precautions whatsoever that would be the surest way to guarantee that an evacuation notice would never be issued for our quaint suburban oasis. If I pack it, it will not come.

I’m befuddled by the drama and chaos that ensues in these type of situations. I don’t understand why people would choose to worry about this. If the fire decides to head this way, there will be nothing that worrying will be able to do to stop it. If we are asked to evacuate, there is nothing that worrying will do to spare our homes from the fire. Unless there is some sort of camaraderie and sense of community to be gained from it, I can’t understand what could possibly make this situation worth wasting precious moments of my present on. I’m not entirely sure what encourages people into Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” mentality. My experience has been that worry is a waste of emotion.

I have deep sympathy for the people who have already lost homes, pets, and even family members because of this fast-moving, highly dangerous fire. I can’t imagine what the people in the fire’s path have already had to endure or how difficult it will be to pick up and rebuild after losing everything. Their suffering is real, and my fingers are crossed that the fire will be contained quickly. Still, I refuse to live in fear or to spend my day discussing other people’s misery. Rather than obsessing about what might happen, I’m going to turn off my laptop tomorrow and spend my boys’ spring break going to the movies and playing games with them. What might happen is not nearly as important as what will happen if I focus on the precious present moments I have with my boys this week.



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