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Missionary Ridge Fire to be commemorated next weekend
6/1/2007 By: Carole McWilliams
The Missionary Ridge fire started five years ago on June 9. Commemorative activities are planned for next weekend with the theme of “Remember, Learn, (What seemed to be a never-ending plume of smoke rose during the Missionary Ridge fire in June, 2002 and covered the Pine River Valley into July. Times file photo by Cathy Garcia)
The events are organized by a committee working through United Way of Southwest Colorado.
United Way president Tim Walsworth said, “We aren’t celebrating anything or raising money. It was an amazing event in our community. We are remembering how the community came together and preparing for the next disaster, whatever it is.”
Each day of the three-day event will focus on one of the themes. The kickoff is Friday, June 8, at the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall. Visitors will remember the fire with an award winning film, “After the Fires,” displays by firefighters, and speeches.
Speakers will include Josh Joswick, who was a county commissioner then; Durango Fire Chief Dan Noonan, County Emergency Management Director Butch Knowlton, a Red Cross representative, Vallecito resident Marilyn McCord, who worked with the Disaster Recovery Coalition, also Cindy Shank and San Juan National Forest Supervisor Mark Stiles.
The evening starts with a social hour at 5:30. The movie will be shown at 6:45, and the speakers will start at 7:20.
The theme on Saturday, June 9, will focus on learning, with events centered at Vallecito. Kids and families will have activities to learn about the forest – what shape it was in before the fire, what the fire did to the forest, and how fire can help to some extent, and what shape the forest is in now.
Activities will be based at the Community Center from 9 a.m. to the closing at 5 p.m. There will be workshops, presentations, and slide shows. The day will include tours on the east and west sides of the lake.
Visitors will be urged to see the Tour of Carvings, 14 chain saw sculptures on trunks of trees killed in the fire. They represent the people and animals affected by the fire, the people who fought the fire, and tree feller Alan Wyatt, the one person killed during the fire.
On Sunday, June 10, the fire anniversary theme will be preparing for future disasters. Families and individuals will be invited to sign preparedness pledges that will allow them to create a simple plan for when the next disaster strikes.
The day starts at 9:30 a.m. with a non-denominational service at the Bar D Chuckwagon on County Road 250, which survived the fire thanks to a stand by firefighters and large quantities of fire retardant foam. The Bar D Wranglers will play, and Pastor Ken Downey will give the sermon. Cowboy poet Sam Noble will recite a poem. Then local firefighters will do a ringing of the bells to honor Alan Wyatt.
Sunday activities will continue from noon to 5 p.m. at the La Plata County Fairgrounds with ways to get prepared for big or small disasters. The goal is to collect 500 preparedness pledges.
Fairgrounds activities will include presentations, slide shows, the “After the Fires” movie, music by the San Juan String Band (San Juan National Forest and Public Lands employees), and fire truck displays. Information about the weekend event and schedule details are at www.missionaryridgefire.org.
Residents also are invited to submit stories about their experiences during the fire at that website, click on “stories.”
They will be included in the commemoration.