It is cliché but 2020 has been an intense year. One of the dramatic
and tragic event was the unprecedented wildlife season in the Western
United States. Living in Colorado, the multiple record-setting, intense
and tragic fires were part of our daily lives from about August to
October as smoke filled the state and images of destruction filled the
Other than having to avoid a few days of outdoor exertion, I was not personally affected. This winter, I wanted to attempt to better understand this historic event, so one weekend I packed
up some snacks, some snow gear and my camera equipment and took a drive
past a couple of the affected areas. In particular, I found myself in
the area near Granby, Colorado where the East Troublesome Fire (incident information website) burned in October. This fire put many communities on alert, burning near Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby, through Rocky Mountain National Park
and to the edge of Estes Park. It exploded from about 18,000 acres to
more than 187,000 acres in a 24 hour period! Through the heroic efforts
of the firefighters and some much needed moisture at the end of the
month, the fire was fully contained in early December.
I had a specific image as I set out: fresh snow on the ground, looking past burned trunks in the
foreground to a hill side of skeletal trees in the distance. While I
did not find that specific shot, I certainly found some impactful and
striking scenes. In the two times, I have visited this area, first for
scouting and then once the snow fell, I was struck by several things.
First, as I set out to find, there are incomprehensible expanses of
destruction caused by the fire. It stretches from to horizon to
horizon, over the Continental divide, racing through the valleys,
lapping indifferently against the edges of Lake Granby and the state
highway over the highest peaks in the distance. It is evident even months after the fire stopped burning what a intense, enormous force
this inferno was. Second, I was struck by the randomness of the
destruction. The fire, driven by the winds and dry wood, burned lines
through a forest creating new, seemingly random boundaries as it raced up a slope. It jumped over patches of woods, leaving untouched stands of trees or a
single green sentinel. As it raged through a neighborhood in
the Kawuneeche Valley on its way to Rocky Mountain National Park, it
burned some houses to their foundations, melting the tires off of
vehicles left behind and left neighboring houses untouched.
Capturing these images, I felt a deep solemnity for the loss to the people who
lived here and for the destruction of the trees and reshaping of the
landscape. I cannot help but worry that scenes like this will be come more and
more common in my lifetime.
In capturing these images, I
can only experience a sliver of what those directly impacted must feel.
I hope that my images can convey some of that to you. To support those
impacted by this fire I made a donation to the Grand County Wildfire Fund and would encourage you to do the same. If you would like to support other communities impacted by the 2020 fires, please see 9News’ more comprehensive list. Also, if you would like a print of any of these wildfire images, please contact me. All proceeds will go to support those impacted.