Last updated 3:58PM ET
December 13, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Missionary Ridge, Five Years Later: Weekend Events to Mark 5th Anniversary
(2007-06-08)
Firefighters work to try and contain flames burning along County Road 250 in the Missionary Ridge blaze, of June, 2002. (Photo: Office of Emergency Management)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: The Missionary Ridge and Valley Fires of five years ago will be remembered in three events beginning tonight entitled: Missionary Ridge, Five Years After the Fire, Remember, Learn and Prepare.
KSUT's Victor Locke reports:

BUTCH KNOWLTON: THERE WAS ALL SMOKE GOING NORTHEAST AND NOW IT'S GOING BACK INTO THE CENTER OF THE TORNADO.
VICTOR: Butch Knowlton, Manager of the La Plata Office of Emergency Management stood with a video camera shooting across a nearly dry Vallecito Lake Bed, when a firestorm tornado developed.
KNOWLTON: DAN, IT WAS RIPPING FULL GROWN PONDEROSA PINE OUT OF THE GROUND.
That tornado was just one testament to the strength and devastation of the 37 days of fire that struck half a decade ago.
Today, the lake is full, oak is turning the once blackened mountainsides around Vallecito green once again.
MATHIS: WE LEARNED SO MUCH FROM THESE FIRES AND WE WANT TO EMPOWER THEM WITH KNOWLEDGE.
WALSWORTH: THE AIM IS TO REMEMBER THE SERVICE AND SACRIFICES, LEARN ABOUT HOW OUR FOREST WAS DOING AND HOW IT'S DOING TODAY, AND THEN GET PREPARED, AND THAT MESSAGE IS FOR EVERYBODY.
Southwest Colorado Medical Reserve Corps member Joy Mathis and United Way Executive Director Tim Walsworth are among a group of local citizens concerned the lessons the summer of 2002 taught us about wildfire may be forgotten with time.
So that groups organized the three day Missionary Ridge 5th Anniversary event this weekend, to Remember, Learn and Prepare.
Mathis says the "Remember" event kicks it all off this evening from 6 to 8:30 at the Community Concert Hall.
It will feature a showing of the film "After The Fire" followed by comments from some keynote speakers.
MATHIS: NOT TO BRING BACK THE TERROR AND DEVASTATION THAT WE ALL FACED, BUT TO HONOR THE WORK THAT OUR COMMUNITY DID, NOT ONLY THE PEOPLE WHO TRIED TO SAVE THE COMMUNITY, BUT THOSE WHO SUPPORTED ALL THOSE EFFORTS AND THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY CAME FROM ACROSS THE NATION TO SAVE THE COMMUNITY AS WELL.
Then tomorrow, you can Learn about wildfires impact during guided tours of the burn area and other activities from 8-5, centered at the Vallecito Community Center.
MATHIS: IT WILL SHOW WHERE THE FOREST HAS COME IN THE FIVE YEARS, AND THERE WILL BE A LOT OF EVENTS THAT ARE CENTERED AROUND THAT.
Day three, Sunday, stresses preparedness.
It starts with a morning service from 9 - 10:30 at the Bar D Ranch, followed by events from 12 to 5 at the La Plata County Fairgrounds.
MATHIS: THERE'S GONNA BE A LOT OF BOOTHS THAT WILL BE EVENT APPROPRIATE AND SHOW PEOPLE HOW THEY CAN PREPARE FOR WHATEVER EVENT MAY OCCUR IN THE COMMUNITY, NOT JUST FIRES BUT FLOODS, PANDEMICS, ANY TYPE OF INCIDENT THAT PEOPLE REALLY NEED TO BE AWARE OF.
All the events are free, and open to everyone from throughout the Four Corners, not just Durango and La Plata County.
Walsworth, Mathis and other organizers say they hope the weekend leaves everyone with a greater awareness of the power of wildfire and the need to be ready for anything.
WALSWORTH: WE ALSO THINK UNFORTUNATELY THAT COMPLACENCY DOES SET IN A LITTLE BIT AFTER FIVE YEARS. WE'RE STILL IN DROUGHT, WE'VE HAD ONE YEAR ABOVE AVERAGE SNOWPACK IN THE PAST FIVE SINCE THESE FIRES, AND SO THAT TO ME JUST MEANS EVERYBODY SHOULD TRY TO COME OUT AND DO WHAT THEY CAN TO PREPARE THEMSELVES, AND THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR NEIGHBORHOODS AND OUR COMMUNITY.
MATHIS: THE LESSONS THAT WE LEARNED FROM THESE EVENTS OF THE FIRE, IS AN EMPOWERING SITUATION AND WE WANT TO EXCITE PEOPLE FROM THIS KNOWLEDGE AND EMPOWER THEM TO GO HOME AND PREPARE. PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. WE CAN NOT EMPHASIZE THAT THE MOST. PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED, BECAUSE WHEN THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS, IF YOU HAVEN'T PREPARED FOR IT, IT'S TOO LATE. YOU DON'T WANT TO FALL INTO THAT TRAP.
You can also learn more about this weekend's activities online, at missionaryridgefire.org.
From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Victor Locke.
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