Words to Stir the Soul: The Fourmile Canyon Fire

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57min 08sec

Photo: Striking Photography

At 10am on Monday September 6th, 2010 - Labor Day - a wildfire started in Fourmile Canyon west of Boulder. Over the course of 11 days, the fire consumed over 6,000 acres of land and destroyed 169 homes. It was the most expensive wildfire in Colorado history, costing around $10 million to fight and causing well over $200 million in property damage. But those numbers only begin to describe the cost of the fire to the residents of the area: Those who lost their homes and those whose homes were spared, the firefighters who responded to the blaze, volunteers who provided shelter and supplies, and decision makers who set policies for dealing with fire.

Last month, a group of those people gathered for an event at the University of Colorado Boulder. Each year the Center of the American West puts on “Words to Stir the Soul and Reckon with Reality,” and they invite a group of speakers from the community to select a reading that reflects on some aspect of the topic chosen for the evening. This year, that topic was the six month anniversary of the Fourmile Canyon Fire.

In this program, we hear some of the highlights from that evening, including the following speakers:

Patty Limerick
(Professor of History at the University of Colorado Boulder and chair of the Center of the American West) Introduction

Marisha Dina Evans
(Boulder High School Student. Her family lived on Escape Route in Fourmile)
Reading original poem, "Home"

Doug Looney
(Former Sports Illustrated writer and Fourmile resident)
Reading his original comments

Amy Millennor
(University of Colorado at Boulder student and Dance major, representing her uncle, Chris Finn, Gold Hill Inn's chef and chief of the Gold Hill Volunteer Fire Department)
Reading an excerpt from "Casey's Table D'Hote" by Eugene Field. From A Little Book of Western Verse, by Eugene Field (1889)

Rodrigo Moraga
(Firefighter, Managing Member of Anchor Point Group LLC, and Fourmile Resident)
Reading from Fire: A Brief History by Stephen J. Pyne (2001)

Andi O'Conor
(Award-winning blogger and Sugarloaf resident)
Reading original work from "Burning Down the House: Essays on the Poetry of Loss"

Joe Pelle
(Boulder County Sheriff)
Reading from The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire That Saved America by Timothy Egan (2009)

Tisha Schuller
(Gold Hill School Mom, Fourmile Volunteer Firefighter, Colorado Oil & Gas Association)
Reading from Why I Wake Early: New Poems by Mary Oliver (2004)

Don Whittemore
(Assistant Chief of Rocky Mountain Fire)
Reading from Fire by George R. Stewart (1948)

Due to the time constraints of our one hour program, we were not able to broadcast the entire event. If you'd like to hear whole thing, click here for a podcast recording, which includes the following speakers who we were not able to include in our broadcast:

John Stocke (Professor Astronomy, Department of Astrophysical & Planetary Science, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Gold Hill resident): Reading from "The Four Noble Truths," from The Little Flowers of St. Francis by St. Francis of Assisi (1982), and from We Were with St. Francis by Salvator Butler (2003)

Will Toor (Boulder County Commissioner): Reading from "Wildfire and Development: Why Stronger Links to Land-Use Planning Are Needed to Save Lives, Protect Property, and Minimize Economic Risk" by Molly Anne Mowery (2008)

Patty Limerick: Closing Remarks

(Photos of the participants courtesy of the Center of the American West, by Honey Lindeburg)