‘It was hard to drive away’

This photo was taken from Linda McDarby’s property in Weber Canyon as the fire raged a short distance away. Enlargephoto

Photo courtesy of Linda McDarby

This photo was taken from Linda McDarby’s property in Weber Canyon as the fire raged a short distance away.

Driven from her home on Road H south of Mancos by the Weber Fire, Linda McDarby keeps calling her landline. When the answering machine picks up, she knows her home is still standing.

So far, the connection hasn’t been broken.

McDarby, a Cortez Journal employee, was at work late Friday afternoon when her husband, Dave, phoned to say a wildfire had started near their house in Weber Canyon. Soon the emergency scanner came to life, providing lots of information about which fire departments were responding — and none at all about what was happening at McDarby’s house. She grabbed her purse and left for home.

She didn’t get past the Mancos water dock.

“People were collapsing in hysteria,” she said of others who were being kept from their homes and families. “People were nearly coming to blows. A couple people blew by the roadblock.”

Two and a half hours later, a Montezuma County Sheriff’s deputy asked for her identification and let her pass.

“Get your stuff and get out,” he told her.

On her way home, she drove past a herd of deer grazing serenely in a lush alfalfa field, paying no attention to the threat of fire or the traffic on the road. That evening, there was no fire on their side of the hill, so the family had time to plan and to gather what they wanted to take with them.

The next morning, though, a thundercloud from the fire was looming overhead, and they knew it was time to go. At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, another deputy knocked on their door.

“You need to get out NOW,” he said.

“It was hard to drive away,” McDarby said, “to have to pull out of the driveway and not know ....”

Her voice trailed off.

The couple, whose household also includes her sister Debbie and several dogs, checked into the EconoLodge in Cortez.

“They’ve been great,” she said. “They gave evacuees a different rate and didn’t charge for pets.” At least five groups of evacuees are staying there, as well as some firefighters.

Friends, coworkers and the community at large also have been incredibly supportive, she said, but that support does not completely counter the stress of not knowing whether her home will be spared.

“I just wish I could visually see the place.

“If it’s gone, we’ll deal with it, but I need to see for myself.”

McDarby lay awake at night in her motel room, thinking of what she left behind — not material possessions, which can be replaced, but sentimental things. Every photo and every video of her son’s entire life was on the other side of the evacuation line.

The news, she knew, could be worse. Another evacuee staying in the same motel also has been phoning home, but her machine hasn’t been answering.

Editor’s note: At press time Monday, McDarby’s home was untouched.