On March 14, I attended a talk held by the Center for the American West at University of Colorado at Boulder. The talk, entitled "Words to Stir the Soul," consisted of several readings by individuals who were directly affected by the Fourmile Canyon Fire, which burned last summer just west of Boulder, Colo. Many of the readers lost their homes and belongings in the fire. Some were left with nothing but what they could fit in their car. Apathetic in its destruction, the fire burned a total of 6,181 square acres (about 10 square miles). By day five of the fire, 1,100 firefighters were working on containing the blaze. On day eleven, 100 percent containment was achieved and fire fizzled out.
Some of the speakers read poetry that they wrote in response to the loss of their homes. Others read passages from books that describe the power of fire and wind combined. What I learned from the readings was that fire, and nature in general, is a force that can provide for us, as well one that can destroy lives and homes.
Many of these individuals were living in the Fourmile Canyon area, completely aware that they were positioning themselves on the edge of nature. Some had spent decades living in an area that is historically prone to wildfire. Many years of dry climate, debris accumulation, and dense ponderosa pine forests created a highly flammable environment. All it takes is a spark from a match or campfire. A fire ecologist and wildfire fighter explained that prescribing fire may be needed to prevent the massive, uncontrollable type of wildfires.
I found the readings to be inspiring, a symbol of the renewing and rebirthing quality of fire. Those affected have lost homes and belongings, but many have found support in friends and family, are again starting to reestablish roots. The forest itself will again be green given time, and the ecosystem will benefit from the recycled nutrients.