Firefighters express gratitude |

Firefighters express gratitude

Dear Roaring Fork Community,

For over two weeks our strength and resiliency as a community has been tested with the Lake Christine Fire as thousands of acres of hillside have burned under the driest conditions we’ve seen since 2012. I have been astonished and humbled by the community’s demonstration of bravery and fortitude. Together, we have celebrated the courage of local firefighters who performed heroic work to save structures and lives the night of July 4 while we also all continue to grieve with the families who lost their homes.

Over the last two weeks, I have also witnessed moments of sincere and heart-felt gratitude expressed by countless people in the community. From GoFundMe sites to donations of food, tea, coffee, clothing, services, and poster after poster of appreciation, the outpouring has been incredible. I’ve spent nearly every day at the Incident Command Post with Mike Almas’ Type 2 Incident Command team. I watched the donations roll in to the team as they expressed wonder, amazement and sincere gratitude. I also saw a community rally in support of the team and the firefighters on the evening of July 10 to welcome the firefighters back to camp after a hard day’s work. I know the team and the firefighters were overwhelmed with a deep sense of humility and pride to be working so hard for this community. The next morning, at the daily briefing, when 30-plus year veterans of fire expressed how that rally made them feel, with voices cracking and wet eyes, I realized the impact this community has made on them. Suffice it to say, Mike Almas’ Type 2 team and the firefighters have never received the show of gratitude they have received over the last 10 days.

Mike’s team brought expertise, experience and commitment to this fire and this community. They arrived and immediately instilled a sense of calm to a community that was in shock. But it took the work of all the cooperators and partners (the town of Basalt, Eagle County Sheriff, Eagle and Pitkin County Emergency Response, state of Colorado, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, local utility companies, to name a few) to come together as one voice and speak to the community about this fire. It has been an honor for me to be a part of this collective effort that I believe is a shining example of how local, state and federal governments can work together.

Please accept my sincere gratitude for all you have done to support the firefighters and the team these past two weeks. I am honored to live and work in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The work of suppressing this fire and the work of engaging with you all as a community is far from over. The fire continues to burn and we still smell and see smoke in the air. Firefighters continue to diligently secure fire lines and patrol and protect structures. Make no mistake, our strategy for the Lake Christine Fire is full suppression. As the fire moves farther on to National Forest lands, into extremely steep and rugged country with heavy fuels, we need to carefully select opportunities where we can successfully contain the fire while keeping firefighters safe. Firefighters will be conducting indirect suppression work and looking for those opportunities where we can create solid lines of defense. We will be deliberate about where we place firefighters, because we can afford to lose trees, but we can’t afford to lose lives.

You will continue to see smoke in the valley for some time. We fully expect it will take a seasonal weather event (a lot of rain) to completely extinguish this fire. I ask for your patience and your continued support of our firefighters. Thank you.

Karen Schroyer

District ranger, Aspen-Sopris Ranger District

White River National Forest