The Fire This Time

When the High Park inferno spared our home, our first emotion was relief. But even though we were lucky, we didn’t realize how much work was still left to do.

November 2012

By September, the mood started to turn. Our community held its annual Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department Fundraiser in its usual meadow in Rist Canyon—the meadow was an oasis of green amid a charred black landscape. The fund-raiser benefitted the initial responders, many of whom lost their own homes while saving others. Our family has attended the event most years, and as we expected, this one was packed. Our community needed it, and not only to support all the folks who had helped during this critical time. We needed to visit the canyon that had burned so badly, to see it up close and neutralized, to find some kind of closure.

My family wandered around the grounds. We visited the art auction, played a few kids’ games, ate ice cream, listened to music, and browsed the book sale. We hugged neighbors and shared our stories once again. For the first time in a long time, the air had a touch of cool to it, and the world seemed a little calmer and safer. When I heard my daughter laugh as she learned to make balloon animals, I sighed with relief. I thought about recovery as I watched my son browse through the antique books at the book sale, concentrating on the titles, his mind far away from dangers. One of the neighbor kids yelped in delight as she saw a bear on a nearby hillside. The whole meadow seemed on fire—figuratively this time—with laughter and chaos, noise and color.

That’s when I realized that this halting recovery, this slow rebalancing of the seasick world, was not as smooth as I had hoped or imagined. But it was working well enough. Our world, for the moment, once again felt solid and steady.



Sweet Relief

To get more information about how to assist victims of the High Park Fire, visit; for information about all recent Colorado wildfires, including where to send financial and material donations, visit