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A Brief Interruption to Your Quilt Broadcast: The Boulder Fires

8 Sep 2010

 I came home this weekend from our QA TV taping with every intention of blogging right away, but then Mother Nature struck...

 On Labor Day, John and I decided to take a long morning hike. It was a beautiful late-summer day: cool, blue, crisp.  When we got back, I decided to spend about an hour in my studio, which faces the mountain. When I entered the room, the lighting looked odd to me and I noticed a sickly yellow glow on my studio wall. I ran outside and pointed out the sky to John.


Indeed, a fire had erupted over the mountain ridge, but we had no idea how far or close it was to our home. I kept Googling for any insight and found the most reliant and up-to-date sources of information were Twitter feeds on Google. 

I ‘d learned the fire had hit Four Mile canyon and police personnel were beginning to close roads and evacuate neighborhoods. Things hadn't improved much Monday night...


We noticed more fire and police personnel descending upon our neigborhood, heard they'd evacuated another neigborhood behind ours, and decided it would be a good idea to pack up some of our things in case we needed to evacuate. (I thought it ironic as I had jokingly written about this very situation in an editor letter a couple of years ago.) We packed up our clothes, pictures, important paperwork, some studio supplies (including my Bernina!), and equipment for our animals.

 We slept with the window open in our bedroom in case we smelled the smoke getting worse. Fortunately, there was no need to evacuate, but the sight of the sunrise the following morning felt apocalyptic.

The smoke was so bad, Boulder officials told everyone to stay inside.

The slurry planes began their relay race between heading to the mountains to drop thousands of pounds of fire retardant materials on the fires, then scurry  back to pick up more. They flew so close to our roof top, it sounded like a war zone above our home. They were accompanied by helicopters that would scoop up water from a local lake and carry the water over the ridge.

Even the prairie dogs didn't know what to make of this!

The police then  blocked off the road leading to the canyon near our home, and those displaced who had just minutes to evacuate, began to line our neighborhood streets to watch what was transpiring in the distance. It was heart breaking...

Everybody gasped when black plumes of smoke would erupt because that meant it most likely was a home going up in flames.

The news crews came too...

I noticed more smoke behind the ridge of our home Tuesday afternoon, but the slurry planes were quick to take it out. I no longer cared how loud they were overhead, they were doing a fantastic job!

Tuesday night things calmed some for everyone in our neighborhood but we felt terrible for all of those displaced. We learned today that more than 50 homes have burned to the ground, and this is probably a low estimate.

John and I aren't in any danger, and since we are within the city limits and have a number of fire hydrants on our street, we're safe. (I repeat to worried family members: we're safe!) No matter what, we would have gotten out of here just fine.

I'd been sharing what's been transpiring in Boulder on my Facebook wall (including that I had packed my Bernina) and Katy Korkos had responded with something that was spot on. She wrote, "When we evacuated for the Cerro Grande, I took the Bernina not because it was irreplaceable (it is not) but because I knew it would give me comfort to be sewing, and help me to keep my mind off of the intense worry about my friends who lost their homes."

This is exactly right. And as quilters we seek to not just comfort ourselves but hope that by somehow fashioning something from our hands for someone else it's our small way of saying we're sorry. I think about all of the quilt drives over the the years for 9/11 victims, the Katrina donations, quilts for Haiti...the list goes on and on. These people who've lost their homes need shelter and comfort right now (not quilts!), but eventually a small token down the line wouldn't be out of order.

As I write this two blessed things have occurred: a moderate amount of rain is falling and there is more humidity in the air. I am hoping that soon we see an end to this fire and the Boulder community can begin to heal. I hope you'll join me in doing a rain dance...


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on 8 Sep 2010 6:19 PM


I'm glad you and John are safe.  What a terrible tragedy for those that lost their homes.

I certainly wish I could send some of the rain we are getting from the tropical storm (10.5 inches since yesterday morning and counting!) to you in Colorado.

Be safe,

Leslie J

mhill286 wrote
on 8 Sep 2010 8:55 PM

Pokey and John, We're all thinking of you!  You're in our thoughts and prayers!  Glad you are safe!

on 9 Sep 2010 10:22 AM

So glad you are both safe and sound...When my husband first heard the news he immediately asked "how's Pokey doing?"  

on 9 Sep 2010 10:59 AM

We're all worrying about you guys here in Stow! So glad you're both safe and sound. My siblings and I used to do snow dances when we wanted snow days off from school, so I'll give rain dancing a try ;)

edunn wrote
on 9 Sep 2010 11:34 AM


I'm glad you and John are fine.  I will say a prayer that the rains continue.

Keep us posted on how you and your neighbors are doing.


on 9 Sep 2010 2:40 PM

I can only imagine how frightening it must have been, especially with the added elements of uncertainty plus all of the sensory overload of sound, sight and smell. Thank goodness you and your husband are safe, and my heart truly goes out to all those who had to evacuate. Doing my rain dance now.

on 9 Sep 2010 2:59 PM

Thanks for the update; although I'm glad you and your husband and your house are safe, I share your sympathy for those not as lucky as you.  Having lived in San Diego when some of the recent fires came uncomfortably close, I know how it feels to choose the items in your own house that you'll pack up, knowing that some of your friends and neighbors didn't have that luxury and have now lost everything.  You should probably be prepared, as well, for an aftermath where the awful smoke smell lingers for days after the fire is out.

A fellow member of the Contemporary Fiber Arts Guild here in Corvallis, Oregon, lost her house and all the contents to a fire a few months ago.  Her family is just now getting their insurance and building plans sorted out and at our Guild meeting this week we all agreed to help her restore her fabric stash.  Insurance replaced her sewing machine but her entire stash was lost.  Since most of us have a SABLE (Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy) we're all going to make sure she has a new stash when she moves her new machine into her new home.

Barbara Gordon

on 10 Sep 2010 2:36 PM

Oh Pokey,

The pictures give me goose bumps. I am so thankful you, John and your four-legged family are safe. My heart breaks for those who were not so fortunate.

But keep your sprinklers on and your roof wet.

I'm doing my rain dance right now and making my hubbie join me!

Bless you,


RuthB@14 wrote
on 11 Sep 2010 8:29 PM


I believe I live just down the street from you!  The corner of 2nd & Pierre.  Anyway, I'm very happy that we have finally been able to get outside today!  

Just wanted to say that I so enjoy your publications (especially Cloth Paper Scissors), your TV show, and all the clever ideas you provide us with!  

I'm now more excited than ever knowing that you live in the area!  Maybe we will meet one day - that would be awesome!  I too, on Thursday evening packed up my sewing machine, serger and our fancy copier (along with important papers, family photos and dog and parrott supplies).  Imagine my suprise reading your blog just now for the first time!

Anyway, it's good to breathe again, and put the machines back in their proper place for use!


on 12 Sep 2010 11:08 AM

Pokey! I'm so glad to hear you & your family are safe...and that you had the time to pack up and be ready to go if you hadn't been! Aiyiyi, what a scary thing fire is! When we moved to S CA 6 years ago, we were lucky enough to be able to find a house in a fire-safe may neighborhoods back onto dry hills similar to those in your pictures. Take care!