Colorado fires rage and a community comes together in tragedy

Amidst the tragedy of the Waldo Canyon fire there is hope and renewal. Photo: Gaylon Wampler / AP

COLORADO SPRINGS, June 27, 2012 - The Waldo Canyon fire just west of Colorado Springs is unprecedented in the history of the city.

Words fail to capture the towering flames or the rapid destruction of forests, homes, and businesses. It is sobering to think that the Flying W Ranch, which has been a working ranch and a top tourist attraction in Colorado Springs for fifty years, burned to the ground yesterday.

After living more than thirty years in the Pikes Peak region, I finally went to visit the Flying W last year. I’m glad I did. I wrote about my experience on my website, which encouraged other friends to go as well. I’m glad they did. For now, at least, the Flying W is no more.  It is sobering to think that while the Flying W might eventually rebuild the buildings, I will not live to see the majestic 100-year old Ponderosa pines grow back.

We have lost something precious in this fire and we will lose more before it is all over.

We have gained something, too. Our community has come together during this tragedy.

We are living the cowboy philosophy that the Flying W taught.

My local high school has become a temporary shelter for evacuees, yet we’re not content to let our friends spend weeks in the school gym. Neighbors just two doors down the street have taken in friends whose house is in the evacuation zone. Other people I checked on are staying with relatives. We may host cadets if the Air Force Academy is evacuated or other people if the fire spreads north.  People have offered to board horses, too. At present, 32,000 people have been evacuated.

Plans are being made. County Commissioner Peggy Littleton attended training with FEMA last year and with her cooperation and encouragement, members of the Pikes Peak 9-12 organization took disaster preparation training with the county sheriff’s department and are now ready to assist.

My church—and I assume other churches—are sending extra people and supplies to the Marian House soup kitchen, run by Catholic Charities.

The sheriff’s department, the City of Colorado Springs, the Red Cross, Care and Share and doubtless other organizations I don’t know about are cooperating to make sure everyone is taken care of. Many, many people are praying—not only here but throughout the country.

Even though I am out of town, I know all this because we are all connected via social media. Even the City and the Sheriff have Twitter accounts. I know what I need to know, and a good deal more, almost immediately as it happens. The newspapers and TV stations, once our leading sources of news, are now historians chronicling what we already know, what we already experienced.

People helping people; neighbors helping each other. It’s what we do best in America.

Yes, politicians are touring the devastation and proclaiming how bad they feel for us; doubtless we’ll see more of them in the days and weeks to come. But they’re irrelevant.

We are the people who made this country great. We are the people who don’t sit back and wait for the government to come in and save us, we take the task in hand and make things happen.

That is not to say that government doesn’t have a role here: it does. Even the most ardent proponent of limited government recognizes the need for real public safety and our police, firefighters and others are performing heroic work. We support them in their work but we are also independent enough and responsible enough to help out and make their jobs easier.

Just as the forest sometimes needs to burn down in order to regrow and emerge stronger and healthier, so also will our community grow stronger and healthier as a result of this tragedy. God bless the USA.


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Al Maurer

Al Maurer is a political scientist and founder of The Voice of Liberty. He writes on topics of limited government and individual rights.

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