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By Walker Bristol
Small fires create single smoke columns that can often be lost in the trees, difficult for fire tenders to pinpoint. The wildfires that drove thousands from their Colorado homes last June, however, were anything but hidden.
Now, after weeks of ubiquitous burning, the fires have largely settled. Bob Gann, Fire Chief of the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department, posted a reflection to the RCVFD website: “The High Park Fire certainly eclipses anything we have seen.”
Gann and his fellow respondents took blows beyond just the infernos themselves: service cuts leading to layoffs months before the fires began, thunderstorms towering over the forests and threatening further devastation. Some Colorado Springs-based volunteers in High Park had to be released early to tend to the destruction in their hometown.
The plight of the Colorado volunteer firefighters isn’t one of heroes coming on horseback from beyond the horizon to help the endangered; it’s one of heroes emerging from the catastrophe itself. Fellow citizens, who go to the same drug store as the peers they’re protecting, whose children attend the same school, shouldered the burden of a threatened community themselves.
Though the fires have settled, Gann knows the ripples will long be felt. “We will be here as the community rebuilds, not only as firefighters and emergency responders, but neighbors.”
These vanguards of humanity exemplify the Foundation’s mission: to show compassion toward others and help alleviate their suffering entirely for the common good. If we can’t stand alongside them, the least we can do is give them the resources necessary to stand themselves. The RCVFD is just one of the local firefighting units we’re currently supporting through our Humanist Crisis Response program.