The first things you need to know: we are all safe, Latigo still stands, and God is still good. On August 13th, the Silver Creek Fire got away from the crews monitoring it and moved across the ridge to the south and west of Latigo Ranch. The winds picked up and the call was made to evacuate all Latigo personnel. In three hours, all of the guests, staff, owners, and horses were off property and safe.
The first evacuation prompted many less-than-pleasant actions on our parts. We had to say goodbye to several staff members early. There was no way to get back to the ranch and regular operations in time for them to finish out their contracts, so they just went home. We had to call the guests who were coming, and we helped them find other accommodations for their vacation instead of Latigo.
We had to figure out what to do in the middle of summer when we weren’t doing Latigo. We were able to find a good place to stay and set up a command center for ourselves. A few of us caught up on reading and emails, played some games and went on walks. It’s hard to have that kind of getaway feel like any sort of holiday, however, when every hour was spent wondering just what sort of a place we might come home to. We tracked the fire, took trips up to check on the animals we couldn’t take (sorry, chickens and ducks!), and just waited.
The outpouring of help and love from our neighbors, staff, and friends was absolutely staggering. Returning guests put up a gofundme.com page for Latigo, and we had triple the number of trailers needed to move horses when the time came to find them a longer-term pasture.
It was a truly remarkable thing.
There was damage to some of the south corner of the property. Several of our trails to the south and west were going to need some serious logging before they could be safely ridden. All in all, not too bad. The fire had swept down the west side of Latigo and hugged the southern border, but barely touched anything on our side of the fence… even if it did get within 100 yards of our front gate.
After 11 days, we got to go home for good.
Or so we thought.
On September 13th, exactly one month to the day after our first evacuation, the spot-fires which had us so nervous the days before flared up under hot, dry, and windy weather. Then an ember floated on the wind and caught in a very dry patch of timber on the other side of Latigo. Our evacuation time went from three hours to one as we hustled to get out of the way of the now imminent danger of the fire.
Randy could see fire leaping from one tree to another as he waited for the caravan of vehicles to come past him at the breakfast site. Our herd (the ones we had brought up with us to finish out the season) had to stay in the hay meadow. We weren’t too worried about them, stashed in the most un-burnable, damp, marshy place on the whole ranch.
But we got out in time. When we got to our rendezvous point down at the Taussig ranch, just a few hundred yards from the winter pasture for our herd, we stood and watched trees torching and smoke billowing from the north and east of the ranch.
Once again, we had to make calls and send staff away, lean on the mercy of neighbors, and try to figure out how to be evacuated, which included canceling the round-up. As much as we would have liked to try to help our local ranchers as usual, many of them were forced to move their cattle out of the way of the fire. Our round-up wouldn’t have had any cows to, you know, round… up… It’s one of our favorite times of the year, and it was heart-wrenching to have to cancel it altogether.
On the 14th, Randy, Hannah, and Phil made a trip up to the ranch to assess damages and grab a few essentials. Hannah took this picture of the hill down from Kasdorf and Sunrise.
According to the official fire maps for the 16th, all of the trees above Kasdorf, almost all of Jumper Flats, the Luge, and many of the trees near the Breakfast Site are in the active fire area, and much of it has burned. The Yost house, George house, and Shannon house were all threatened, but appear to have no damage so far. We won’t really know the extent of it until we are let back onto the ranch for good again.
That’s what happened.
At present, we are trying to run a business as exiles from that business – still paying bills, taking bookings, and thinking up ways we’ll keep Latigo going.
What the future holds… well, we don’t know when it will be prudent to return to Latigo full time. It could be two days or two weeks, but likely not much longer than that, Lord willing. We will have to clean out some refrigerators, and mop up around the place, do a lot of logging and rebuild long stretches of fence.
Then, we keep going. The burned areas are going to be good grazing inside of two years. There will be plenty of new trail to explore and show off to our guests. And, given a little more time, we will be able to ride the old trails and point to the charred stumps and say, “See, there, that was the Silver Creek Fire back in ’18. It’s the West, and no matter what happens, we keep on riding.”
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