No alarm clock can awaken you with the sense of panic that the smell of thick, heavy smoke can do. But in the early, pre-dawn hours of June 10th, that’s exactly what Pedestal Source team member Emily awoke to; and she knew what was coming next. Indeed, the eerie silence was broken at 5am with the phone call to evacuate. In utter shock that the fire could actually be that close, she took only what couldn’t be replaced, and left her home not knowing if she would see it again. The days that followed were filled with stress, anxiety and a helpless feeling of knowing there was nothing she could do. Hoping that going to work would provide some normalcy, it only added to the stress. Her office window faced directly towards where her house was, complete with a view of the billowing smoke and a constant reminder that her house could be a pile of ash by now.
Here in Fort Collins, CO we have recently had our world shaken by the High Park Fire. The images of devastation have been hard to view, and the stories of loss have been heartbreaking. And while we all have joined in the sentiments of many of our community members in thanking the firefighters, it wasn’t until this past weekend that I really understood what I was being thankful for.
My family and I decided to take a drive on Sunday to view some of the burn area. I was immediately struck by how seemingly random the fire was, but at the same time how selective it seemed. Burned vegetation yet a wooden fence untouched. A row of mail boxes with a random one melted to the ground. Blackened, charred, dark as coal trees in one spot and not 20 yards away the greenest and most normal looking, unaffected trees you’ve ever seen.
And the houses as well. We saw our share of destroyed structures, but in the case of so many houses, the building was spared. With Emily’s house, the fire came within 200 yards, and in some cases in her neighborhood the fire burned right up to the foundation, but didn’t burn the house. After giving this some thought, you realize what this means. These houses had most likely been protected by firefighters. House after house still standing amongst the charred forests and burnt brush covered hillsides.
Now, it’s easy to understand all the signs. Just on my short drive alone I saw dozens of signs trying to express the un-expressable to the firefighters and emergency personnel. Incredible gratitude. Thank you indeed. Yes, okay. It’s their “job” right? But the unpredictable nature of fire automatically puts these men and women in harms way. They risked their lives to save someone else’s memories. Someone else’s hard work. Someone else’s reality. For that, our community can express no adequate words of thanks.
Community. Although just a bunch of individuals, together we make up a collective consciousness that keeps us bound together on a certain level. Here at this company, we join in with our community in saying “thank you”. We say it because we know the firefighters would do the same for any us. Emily’s relief of her house being spared was tempered of course by knowing so many people were not so fortunate. But it’s the same community that thanked the firefighters that now helps the devastated, less fortunate ones pick up the pieces. It’s what community does, and we’re proud to be a part of it.
View our Pinterest board dedicated to the High Park Fire here.