Pulling into the driveway, I could no longer keep my emotions in check. I started to sob uncontrollably. To see our little log cabin intact, looking just like it did five days ago, when I had hastily grabbed our pets, and loaded them into the car, pulling away in a cloud of dust. All the sum total of the stress and anxiety of the last five days came pouring out of me through the rivulets of tears rolling down my face. Bryon stepped out of his car and gave me a big hug. It was all just too much.
After going through a roller coaster of emotions, I finally let it all out. There is a book titled, Waiting to Exhale. I felt like the last five days, I’d been holding my breath, waiting to exhale, whether in the worst kind of sadness, or greatest of joy of still having a home. For me, it was the latter, but not everyone was as fortunate as Bryon and me.
A year ago I met a lovely couple at Mud Lake, one of our county parks near Nederland. They asked me if I lived in Nederland and I confirmed that I did. I shared my stories of living here and how much joy I had received from living in this small mountain town. I was so happy to hear from them later in the year that they had purchased a place of their own here.
That happiness turned to sorrow when they sent me the pictures, showing their home had burned to the ground. My heart breaks for them, as it does for the other seven families who lost a home during this horrific fire. It seems so unfair to have found what they thought was a dream spot, only to have it taken away so quickly.
I’m sure there are many who question anyone at all living amidst the forest in the mountains of Colorado, given the ever present risk of wildfires. And I think those of who choose this lifestyle should be held responsible or accountable. Fire mitigation has to be a number one priority for anyone who lives here, and they deserve to have insurance companies, neighbors, and citizens expect this of them.
But it also has to be a joint partnership. What makes it so special living here is the mix of the wild with the residential, but part of that mix is attributable to public lands interspersed with private land. Mitigation must be a joint partnership between all — all residents, all agencies, all towns. It does no good for me to perform the utmost fire mitigation on my property, only to have my neighbor next door do nothing. It doesn’t do any good to have the U.S. Forest Service land down the road have piles of slash that dry out and sit around for years on end.
We must all be in this together to make ourselves safer, and our forests healthier. I’m hoping if something positive can come of this terrible event, it’s that we all work harder to make that happen.