Bridging the Divide: Growing from the ashes


By Laurel Sebastian

Special to The SUN

Join local forest and fire experts to learn about wildland fire management, explore the impacts and recovery from the West Fork and Million fires, and understand how to protect your home from future fires.

An evening of free food, beer and presentations at Wolf Creek SkArea on Sept. 7 will be followed by a full-day tour on Sept. 8 of areas affected by two of the largest fires in Colorado history.

In 2002, the Million Fire burned 9,346 acres near South Fork, costing over $9.8 million.

In 2013, the same area was struck by the West Fork Fire Complex, which burned over 109,049 acres of the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests and cost over $31 million.

Five and 16 years later, we are bringing together communities, land managers and scientists from both sides of the Continental Divide to reflect on the Million and West Fork fires, discuss recovery from fires, and think about the future of our communities and forests.

Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership, Firewise of Southwest Colorado, Southern Rockies Fire Science Network, Colorado State Forest Service, Wolf Creek Ski Area and the Rio Grande and San Juan national forests are offering communities affected by historic and recent fires an opportunity to discuss, reflect and learn about forests and fire dynamics.

Join us from 5 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 7 for free food, beer and conversation.

On Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., there will be an opportunity to tour the burn areas with resource specialists, emergency responders, community members and land managers. We will meet at the South Fork Visitor Center, organize into vans and drive to diverse burn areas to talk about everything from water and wildlife impacts, to home protection strategies, to economic impacts and fire dynamics. Lunch will be provided by the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership and Firewise of Southwest Colorado. Wear appropriate shoes, bring water and be prepared for weather.

Although free, registration is required for both events so that we can make sure to have enough food. Find the full agenda and register at

To watch a video series on the West Fork Fire Complex created by the Southern Rockies Fire Science Network, visit: