The Missionary Ridge and Valley fires scarred the land but left marks on the psyche of survivors, as well.
“A lot of people here in Vallecito don’t want to reflect on the issue,” said Rolland Healy, owner of Vallecito Lake Country Market. “They just want to let go and move on.”
The reaction could be expected. Residents lost homes, and the business community – resorts, ranches, marina and restaurants – saw much of their 2002 summer profits go up in smoke, and some didn’t rebound until the next summer.
Vallecito resident Justin McCarty, the principal of McCarty Excavation & Construction, said residents tend to be doers, not talkers.
“In the fire, the community worked through it together,” said McCarty, who rolls out his equipment free of charge in times of need. “It was neighbor helping neighbor.”
Merchants provided money to pay for the creation and installation of 12 sculptures in fire-killed snags that evoke memories of the fire, McCarty said.
Healy said the community isn’t planning a collective observation of the 10th anniversary of the fire.
Some homeowners rebuilt destroyed houses while others couldn’t face the prospect.
“It broke my heart,” said Joyde Glick, who with husband, Peter, lost their house and its contents in the Valley Fire. “I couldn’t look at the dead trees.”
The Glicks, friends and neighbors spent evenings watching the Missionary Ridge Fire from the deck of their Falls Creek home overlooking the north Animas Valley. They could feel the heat radiating from across the valley, she said.
Then the Glicks left for Arizona on business on June 24, the day before an electric-fence charger in their Falls Creek Ranch subdivision sparked the Valley Fire, which leveled 10 homes.
“We got home Wednesday to find our home gone,” Glick said. “We lost everything, including jewelry that melted in a metal safe that was embedded in a concrete floor.
“We knew we wouldn’t rebuild because it was too traumatic. We kept the property for a couple of years but eventually sold it.”