Stocks and forest fires: My weekend spent running from the Little Bear Fire

Friday afternoon at 5pm MST, my girlfriend and I woke up from a nap and saw a plume of smoke rising in the distance, near the peak of White Mountain in Ruidoso, NM. By 3:30am Saturday morning, as the 150 foot flames were barreling down the ridge closest to us, we were throwing a few boxes of keepsakes into our cars and racing out of my ranch’s gates, taking the only developed road out of the property, which took us straight West into the flames.

Here’s some of the video I took as we drove through the flames:

We evacuated the area and stayed the rest of the morning at her house. I drove back as close to my house as the cops would let us get and then I hopped out and jumped the highway fence and ran the 1/2 mile through the pastures to my house. I grabbed my 4-wheeler and headed down to the cul-de-sac that leads into my property to try to get a better view of just how close the fire was getting to my property, which totals 40 acres and was totally virgin land, covered in thick conifer of Juniper and Pine.

As I came around the curve of the driveway, whose path I had personally cut out of the forest when I’d bought the land and decided where I was going to build my house, I saw the flames of Little Bear Fire torching my land. The trees and grass were ablaze at the end of my driveway as the fire engulfed the 1/4 mile hollow where a river used to flow a century ago but which was these days just covered in verdure trees.

Here’s what greeted me — and I only took a few seconds of footage because what you don’t see is that the flames were also on my left and the heat and smoke were building fast and I was scared, as you can hear in my voice in the video:

The embers from the giant pines that were exploding like matches were raining on my head as I hauled back to the Airport Road where my car was parked. I watched with my neighbors and my girlfriend as the flames continued their slow creep towards my house, the roof of which we can see from the road. But after a few minutes, with my stomach knotted and feelings reminiscent of 9/11 in NYC when I’d fled my apartment next to the WTC with the collapsing towers on foot, I realized I didn’t want to watch my dream home and ranch burn before my eyes. So I grabbed my girl and we went to her house, from which we were promptly evacuated, just a couple hours later.

By Saturday night, the tiny Little Bear Fire in Lincoln County, NM, had gone from 10 acres to 20,000 acres and hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses had been burned throughout the county. My girlfriend, my dog Lobo and my cat and I were all safe in Carrizozo, 30 miles from the fire.

Miraculously, Sunday morning, I spoke to the sheriff who had been investigating the area and found my house was still standing, despite most of the entire 40 acres that it sits on being burned — and still aflame. I have no idea how this forest fire that went right through my property didn’t take out my house.

I know this has little to do with investing and trading on the surface, but it all ties in, as my home and real estate are big parts of my portfolio too. Having been forced to flee my home for a second time in the last 11 years, was not quite as terrifying as it had been on 9/11, but it was still terrifying.

The fire is 0% contained at this point and still growing.

This disaster is still not over for me and many others in Ruidoso are in dire straits. Total nightmare for this county.

The former Ruidoso Police Dept Chief lost his own house in large part because they had the crews fighting to protect the rest of us.  God bless the crews fighting the fires everywhere they can. In a few days, we’ll know specifically how we all can help all those devastated by the fire. Hundreds of families here have lost everything.

In the meantime, if you’d like to help the people here who need it, one direct way you can get involved is to reach out and offer to put some of the people who have lost their homes up at a hotel/motel and/or buy them a good meal at restaurant. Call the restaurant and pay the bill over the phone with your credit card and then go post that the credit is there. Same thing with the hotel. Here’s a Little Bear Fire facebook resource page that people have put together and where you can reach out directly to the people who have been devastated by this fire.

To be clear — my family, my pets and I are fine. My property was devastated by the fire, but my house, as of yesterday morning, was still standing. Even if I have lost my house, I’ll be fine — as I went through my house at 2am Friday night looking for things that “are important” to pack, I realized once again how little all material goods, including even our homes, really matter. Andrew Lanyi used to tell me that “If it doesn’t bleed, you don’t cry for it” and that’s the truth.

As for the markets and trading, I’m still letting my purchases from the lows last week ride as I am mostly comfortable with the positioning of my overall portfolio. Facebook is up again today, even as the Nasdaq is down a bit. Turns out that Spain and the EU — brace yourself — figured out a way to kick their debt crisis can down the road for a few more months. The futures rallied big over the weekend on that news, but the fade is already here this morning. I remain overall bullish and am more aggressively net long than I have been since the last time we rallied off the lows and we had rightly positioned our portfolios so aggressively long at that point. I still have more room to buy and will likely do so if the markets and/or my favorite stocks fall back below their recent lows where we were indeed buying more.