Two families who lost everything in an overnight wildfire in northwestern Wyoming are feeling the support of their community.
Less than a week ago, Becky Flowers and her stepson Roy, along with Becky’s sister- and brother-in-law and their son, were urged to evacuate their homes in Clark, about 30 miles northwest of Cody. Hurricane-force winds Nov. 15 night had taken down a power line, which fell into a tree on County Road 1AB. The sparks lit the dry grass, and the gusts, which were reported to be in excess of 100 mph, quickly carried the fire toward the lower Line Creek area.
“About (11 p.m.) we were notified by my nephew that lives next door to look out for some flames in Clark,” Becky told Cowboy State Daily. “We didn’t see them at 11:30, but we saw them by 11:45.”
Roy Flowers, Becky’s stepson, urged her into action.
“Roy said, ‘Get your medication, get any cash you got laying around, get a change of clothes and let’s get out of here.’ He looked out and could see the red,” Becky recalled.
Becky said they got into Roy’s vehicle and hurried next door to help her brother- and sister-in-law and their son evacuate.
“We went over there to help them pick up their kittens and their cats and dogs and get their selves together and get out,” said Becky. “And then I hollered at Roy from the porch, and said, ‘The cinders are coming over the house, there’s red fire coming down on top of your car.’”
The Flowers and Powell families narrowly escaped, according to Becky.
“We were in our cars and we got out, but we were very close to driving through a wall of flames just to get up onto Crossfire Trail out of the driveways,” she said. “So it was nip and tuck.”
Although they escaped with their lives, the belongings of both families were not spared. The mobile home Becky and Roy lived in while they were building a new home is now a pile of ashes – as is the house that was under construction, along with several outbuildings.
Becky’s 2013 Hyundai Tucson is a burned hunk of metal. The Powell family home was also completely consumed.
In total, seven outbuildings and a bridge on Gunpowder Road were destroyed in the fire.
To make matters worse, Becky said both her mobile home and the building under construction were not insured.
“The home we were building was not at a point where we could get insurance, because we were building it ourselves,” she explained. “And so we had to wait until it was at a certain point before you can get them to insure it. The next project was getting electrical wiring hooked up, and then it would be ready to go. We just had the fire hit before the electricians did.” Becky added that the Powells’ home was insured.
But Flowers considers herself lucky. Her neighbor Cindy Ruth died of smoke inhalation while trying to escape the fire.
“She lived down the road, probably a mile, mile and a half from us,” Becky said. “On the other side of Line Creek.”
Becky and Roy Flowers both work for Cody Regional Health, and Becky said the administration has been extremely generous.
“The hospital has given us a cottage to stay in here on the complex that they use for traveling doctors and nurses, but we don’t have any of them traveling around right now since COVID,” she said. “So it’s empty, and they are gracious. They are just letting us stay here — until.”
Flowers said she has been bowled over by the generosity of the community and her co-workers.
“There have been lots of messages and lots of caring, and coming to check on us, and making sure that every time we walk through the hospitals, there’s always somebody asking, ‘How are you doing? What are you doing? Do you need anything, anything at all?’ And it’s just been fantastic. It’s just been unreal.”
In answer to those questions, Becky’s daughter, Nikki, has organized a GoFundMe campaign to help her family recoup some of the loss.
“I set it up for out of town family and friends who were asking how they could help,” Nikki said. “And I mostly did it for my mom and my brother because I know that there’s no insurance on their property.”
Nikki said she has been overwhelmed by the amount of support expressed in the community.
“It’s above and beyond anything I could have expected,” she said. “But as usual, the town rallies like it always does.”
Becky, who is 75, said that the fire is making her re-think where she will live now.
“I don’t want to live that far out of town and away from my doctors and stuff like that,” she said. “That’s a long way when you look at it from a realistic point. I mean, we still have the property and will keep it you know, but it’ll just probably go down to the next generation. We’ve had it for a long time.”
But Becky said she isn’t mourning the material things that were lost in the fire. Instead, she’s looking forward.
“We just have to start a new journey. That’s it.”
If anyone would like help out the Flowers and Powell families: