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Fire’s victims emerge as victors

We made it.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Coal Seam Fire. Glenwood Springs, and particularly those who lost homes and possessions to the fire, can take a measure of pride in having survived the initial firestorm and the challenging days, weeks, months – and year – that were to come.

For a few days, anyway, much of Glenwood Springs lived on edge. Thousands were evacuated, left to wonder if they would ever see their homes again. Even after they moved back in, the battle against the blaze went on, and only gradually could residents feel secure that the threat had passed.



For those living in 29 homes, of course, the fire robbed them of life as they knew it, even though it claimed no lives. The last year has been a time of rebuilding homes, maybe moving on; either way collecting from scratch the accoutrements of a household.

Many others whose homes were spared but still live in the Mitchell Creek area endured countless evacuations, often in the dark of night, due to storm clouds that threatened to flood them out. Some flooding has occurred, and the threat lingers on even a year later.



This was a fire that burned a hole through a lot of pocketbooks. Besides the homes it destroyed, it claimed 14 outbuildings on its way to consuming 12,209 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The federal agency places the total cost of the Coal Seam Fire at $16.8 million. That includes $7.3 million to fight the fire, of which the state/local share was $2 million, although the Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursed $1.5 million of that.

The total tab also included $6.4 million in insurance claims, $1.7 million in forest rehabilitation, $1.3 million in Small Business Administration loans and $101,821 in FEMA/state disaster grants.

Several of the most devastating wildfires in Colorado history started a year ago this weekend. The Hayman Fire on the Front Range and Miracle Complex blazes in Mesa County started on June 8, and the Missionary Ridge Fire near Durango started the following day.

The Hayman Fire cost $119.8 million, Missionary Ridge $74.6 million, and the Miracle Complex nearly $2 million.

Statewide last year, there were 4,600 wildfires. Nine firefighters died, including five in a van accident on Interstate 70 near Parachute. Altogether, 380 homes and 624 outbuildings were lost, and 619,029 acres burned. Fires forced the evacuation of 81,000 people from 120 subdivisions in more than 40 communities.

More than 16,000 firefighters responded to the fires, at a cost of $157.6 million.

Today’s Coal Seam Fire package in the Post Independent is the second in a two-part series. One story shows how some of the money spent in connection with the fire has paid off in revegetation and soil stabilization. Another examines a post-fire weed outbreak and attempts to control it.

We also return to the Glenwood Fish Hatchery up Mitchell Creek to see how it has been coping with the threat flooding poses to its piscatory product. And we check in on what has become of many of the people displaced by the fire.

The Coal Seam Fire exacted a high price over the last year, but it also illuminated the fireproof resolve of the human spirit.

Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516

dwebb@postindependent.com


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