By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
For about two weeks, Marie Kranz has begun every morning by getting her work uniform out of her suitcase.
The Centennial postmaster is not living away from her home. She’s just been living on the edge of a pre-evacuation notice for the last few weeks due to the Mullen Fire in Medicine Bow National Forest.
Centennial has been under a pre-evacuation notice for several weeks, with the Albany County Sheriff’s Office reiterating that the pre-evacuation order still stands: residents should be prepared to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.
Some of the pre-evacuation checklist tasks advise residents to make sure they have at least a half-tank of gas at all times, make sure important files are packed up and ready to go and that special or valuable items are ready to be picked up as soon as the evacuation order is issued.
Kranz has lived in Centennial for less than a year, but has spent the last two weeks in a near-constant state of anxiety. She’s packed up her belongings, categorized any items that insurance could replace and has her dog’s items ready, just in case the call comes.
“I’ve been living out of boxes and suitcases for the last couple weeks,” she said. “It kind of reminds me of when I used to travel for work and I would be in hotels and living out of suitcases, but I’m in my home.”
The anxiety, at times, can be agonizing. She noted that a recent trip into Laramie earlier this week caused a near panic attack.
“I drove to Laramie to get dog food and some groceries and I was so worried the entire time I was gone that the evacuation notice would come down and I wouldn’t be able to go home and get my dog and my things,” she said. “Every single time I passed a police car, I would have to stop myself from pulling over and turning around. I kept thinking, ‘This is it.'”
Doing menial errands like grocery shopping has turned into a game of strategy, as Kranz worries that any time she leaves her home for anything other than work, it might be the last time she sees it.
But it’s not just her dog and belongings Kranz is worried about – it’s her neighbors, her newfound community in Centennial and the forest itself. It’s heartbreaking for Kranz and the Centennial residents to watch the beautiful trees go up in flames.
The smoke has also been a problem in Centennial, Kranz noted. Some days, the skies are clear and as blue as the ocean.
Others, it looks overcast outside, but instead of gray, the sky is red.
“Sometimes, like today, the sky will be so black, you can’t even see the sun,” she said. “It’s scary, because you think ‘If there’s smoke, there’s fire.’ When you see smoke like that, you realize how close the fire is.”
So for now, Kranz and the rest of the Centennial community will continue to wait, either for an all clear sign or an evacuation notice. The only thing that can put Kranz at ease right now is precipitation.
“I don’t care if it’s rain or snow, just something wet falling from the sky,” she said.