Glenwood Springs – scared and proud
Mankind, what a week it’s been.
When wind and fire swept into our valley last weekend, it was terrifying and heartbreaking.
From the looks of things, police chief Terry Wilson told me later, he was going to lose an entire shift of officers and half his town to the roaring fire storm.
“From the West Glenwood Fire Station, I could see a wall of smoke flying up both sides of the river. My guys were running around to evacuate people, and flames were jumping around the squad cars. That was as scared as I’ve ever been for them, and as proud as I’ve ever been of them,” Wilson told me.
“They were hanging it out there. This was exceptional and very, very frightening,” he added.
At the same time, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt firefighters were holding a line in West Glenwood and on Red Mountain to prevent the fire from coming further into the city. Their efforts really paid off.
Fire chief Mike Piper said the firefighters were so well trained that “their instincts just kicked in.” They dealt with difficulties and moved forward, dousing flames and stopping the hungry wildfire.
Scared and proud. I think we all must feel that.
In today’s edition, on page 15, we have printed some of the best photographs that readers have sent in to us over the past week. They provide a graphic visual image of the inferno of a wildfire hell bent on burning down our town.
It’s easy to see, looking at these photographs, why Wilson thought things were going to get so bad.
It turned out the Coal Seam Fire was bad – at least 14 families have lost their homes and our scenic Red Mountain is charred – but not as bad as Wilson and many others feared.
The West Glenwood commercial district, 99 percent of West Glenwood homes, the new MOC and RFTA bus barn, the Community Center and Yampah Mountain High School were spared the blistering flames.
The smoke cleared early on, and we have had surprisingly good air quality in the valley considering a forest fire is burning so close by.
And best of all, there have been no deaths or serious injuries. If you look at what burned, and how fast it burned, I think you’ll agree that the safe evacuation of thousands of people – including many very close to the flames – is a miracle.
Life as we once knew it will return.
But the experience is still very fresh in all our minds, and mental health experts say the best thing we can do is talk with each other about it. I hope you all are doing that – talking and listening.
I’d also like to invite you to summarize your experience with the Coal Seam Fire, in 200 words or less, and send it to me via e-mail to news@postindependent. com. Be sure to include your name, community of residence and phone number.
We will publish your short essays later this week.
I also encourage you to donate to the many funds set up at local banks to benefit those who have lost their homes.
In most cases, these people escaped with little more than their pets and the clothes on their backs.
Most have insurance coverage, but we know that won’t cover all their losses. And some had no coverage, and must start over. Let’s show them how this community takes care of its own in the face of catastrophe.
Money won’t replace treasured heirlooms, but it will buy many of the things they will need to rebuild their homes and lives.
And let’s show these hundreds of firefighters in our town how much we appreciate their hard, hard work in knocking down this wildfire. They have come here to save our town.
Bake some brownies, write a letter to the editor, give a massage, put up a banner, do whatever you are best at, in making them feel appreciated. Because by golly, they are deeply appreciated.
Heather McGregor is the managing editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
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I wrote this column to share my story through my cultural assets: Aspirational, linguistic, familial, navigational, social, and resistant. I know we all have an open wound in our lives and I want to share…