In only three weeks, what became known as the High Park Fire consumed over 87,000 acres, burned 259 homes, and claimed one life. In all, over 33,000 residents were evacuated from their homes. Residents of Fort Collins watched the fire progress along the ridgeline just three miles west of the city limits. Sustained high temperatures, extremely low humidity levels, strong westerly winds, and intense drought had left the area tinder dry and ready to explode. With one strike of lightning, it did.
On July 1, the fire was contained and evacuations lifted. Timber and brush within the containment area continued to burn through the summer, and monsoon rains in late summer triggered mud and rock slides, forcing new evacuations and causing additional damage. Rehabilitation of the land began in early fall and residents began to return to homes, to reclaim, or to rebuild. Although fundraisers and local organizations assisted residents, not everyone has returned. More than two years after that initial lightning strike, our community is still recovering.
The High Park Fire: A Community Responds is a two-year community engagement project to tell the story of the fire and its aftermath. Supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, FCMoD is working to achieve three goals:
1) to collect and share the stories of the people impacted by the fire;
2) to offer opportunities for collaboration, conversations, and research with other local agencies; and
3) to provide educational opportunities to the community in collaboration with other agencies to share these stories, and to provide information and resources.
Here on this website, you can explore some of the stories we’ve collected, learn more about the High Park Fire through the interactive timeline, and stay informed about the public forum series running each month from January through June.