EAST SPANISH PEAK — A year ago, on June 19th, what began as a lone tree smoldering from a lightning strike days earlier, flared into what quickly became the most destructive wildfire in Huerfano County in over a century. Beginning on a ridgeline above the Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch (SPSR) located at the end of Bear Creek road, the fire, within an hour of being spotted, turned into an out-of-control conflagration that had scouts fleeing for their lives. Evacuations of large swaths of southern Huerfano County followed, with Walsenburg and La Veta on three-hour standby for evacuation. Firefighters from across the country poured in, and the Colorado National Guard was sent in to help any way they could. Air tankers dropped retardant, and a small fleet of helicopters dipped and dropped water from wherever they could find it. La Veta’s schools were turned into fire command headquarters, and their football field sprouted 100’s of tents, with a population rivaling the town’s. In all, over 13,750 acres burned, 750 firefighters responded to help, thirteen houses were lost,
and $6.9 million was spent to bring the fire under control. Last Friday morning, almost a year ago to the day, where the fire first began, there was the ribbon cutting to kickoff the planting of new trees in the marred burn area at SPSR. Shelly Salley-Jarrett, camp director of SPSR, led five troops and their leaders, along with SPSR staff, Huerfano County Commissioner Max Vezzani, Kelsey Ridennoure with Huerfano County NRCS, and Mark Loveall of the Colorado State Forest Department, to a 13 acre area of camp where hundreds of new ponderosa pine trees are being planted to stabilize the ground and regrow the forest for future generations. Salley-Jarrett said, “It’s all about the future generations, so they will have a place to come in the future.” Loveall spent a few minutes teaching the crew how to transplant trees properly by building moats around the seedlings, how to mark them well so they can be easily found for frequent watering, and the importance of planting them where there is some shade, so the seedlings can be protected from the sweltering afternoon heat. Be sure to download the free app, LAYAR, and scan the HWJ front page for videos of the ribbon cutting.