Black Forest Fire call to action

Tuesday June 11, 2013 I left work early to go see my daughter at work. She had recently started working at a local Starbucks and asked me to come by. I got there at 1:57pm and took this picture below. The young lady on the right is my daughter, the one on the left is close enough for me to claim as a daughter and calls me “Mom”. Her name is Robyn.


Robyn and Jack at work, my favorite baristas.

At 2:01pm, I got the news alert text message that simply said “Fire reported near Shoup and Tahosa, east of 83- near Pine Creek High School.” I told the girls of the text and that I’d keep them updated. As I drove home I could see the cloud of smoke getting bigger and bigger.


I took this photo at 2:33pm. This is the high school mentioned in the news, it is about 1 mile from our home and 11 miles or so from the girls I had just left at work. My kids graduated from this school.

Robyn’s family home was lost to that fire some 4 hours later. It wasn’t just Robyn’s family home, it was three generations of family that lost homes. Her family is one of those close-knit groups that all live within a mile or so of each other. Three generations of family now all displaced. Yes, they are all safe from the fire. But two other people died, as they were trying to evacuate. Car doors open and cars full of stuff.

Not just them. Over 500 families have lost their homes. These are not anonymous people on the news, these are neighbors, classmates, and friends. Fire does not discriminate. For every large home that you see burning on the news (‘cause it looks so dramatic) there are humble family homes with tic marks on the wall where the kids were measured year after year. Homes full of wedding albums and school pictures. Pets that couldn’t be retrieved by people that may have been at work or appointments. Birth certificates. Handmade Mother’s Day gifts from school. First grader art work on the fridge. Gone.

So, the blog title said call to action and here’s where it is.

Make YOUR plan. Keep important papers in one place. Have your list. If I have 10 minutes, I take this, two hours and I get that. Decide on a meeting place so when family members are all over town (like at work and school) you have a place to go and meet, you’re not looking for each other unnecessarily. Take photos of your home, it’s a great inventory. Remember the P’s…people, pets, pills, papers, photos, passports…

Read the list. Scroll thru 97 pages of homes, some lost, some damaged, some safe. Just because a home is listed as safe doesn’t mean the people are not affected. Every one of those residents knows someone who lost everything except what they could fit in their car. Many of them are coming home to homes now surrounded by burned trees and landscape all around. Sometimes their home is safe and the only one left standing in the neighborhood.

Confirm your insurance. Check that you have everything in place and know the names of the companies you use. Maybe make a contact on your cell phone with important details like policy numbers, you can usually still access that from online, with or without your phone.

Donate, time, money, food. I can pretty much guarantee that YOU have more than any of those families that lost their homes. Surely there’s a can of pork-n-beans you can spare, or some of your time organizing a car wash.

Be there. When someone loses everything they are in shock. Insurance won’t bring it all back and it’s simply all gone. Just gone. Don’t ask how they are, don’t ask what they need. They are not ok, they need everything. Hug them. Tell them you love them. Cry with them. Check on them in a week, in two weeks, in a month, do this for a long time, a year or more. Tell them you are there for them, then BE THERE FOR THEM.

Say thank you. To the firefighters. To the police/sheriff department. To the National Guard. To the utility workers (they are out in force digging new lines for people). To the humane society. To the local businesses that won’t charge evacuees for services like boarding pets.


This photo shows a tiny fraction of people that turned out to thank the crews coming in after a 12 hour shift in the burn area/fire. There must have been a thousand people and we were clapping, waving and cheering for an hour as the crews came back in. There’s hands and faces were filthy, their eyes were tired and their smiles were big.

This is Colorado and we are thankful.