Fire benefit show braves the flames

Shane Benjamin/Durango Herald

The West Fork Complex fires have drawn hundreds of firefighters and ground crews to the South Fork area. Durango musician Dave Mensch will play a benefit concert Saturday at a private home outside the evacuation area to raise funds and receive donated items for the firefighters.

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

A month or so ago, when Durango singer-songwriter Dave Mensch booked himself a couple of nights in Pagosa Springs and South Fork, he couldn’t have known that The Shaft, the site of his Saturday night concert, would be closed this weekend and its very existence threatened by one of the most menacing wildfires in recent memory.

But it is. And even though Mensch can’t play his scheduled gig, the show will go on, in South Fork, and the musician hopes to lend a hand to those who are fighting the West Fork Complex fires.

“I’ve built a lot of friendships from playing across the 160 corridor,” Mensch said. “I was hoping (The Shaft) would be open and just figured a show would be supportive of the cause, to do something to put out a good positive vibe, bring smiles and lighten up some spirits.”

With The Shaft inaccessible, a couple of Mensch’s friends offered up their home for a benefit show. They live in an (as yet) unevacuated area near South Fork, and Mensch is planning a full day and night of music.

To get in, one must just show up with an item or two to donate to firefighters or a financial donation to the Red Cross.

“What was going to be for my friends I figured instead, ‘let’s just go big and do it for everybody over there,’” Mensch said.

Mensch has invited any and all musicians and DJs to join in to play as little or as long as they’d like. He understands that for much of the day he’ll be on his own, as it’s a long drive and not everyone will be playing a show Friday night in Pagosa Springs as he is.

“Some musicians are a little scared, which is understandable. It’s really scary over there right now, but that’s why we’re doing this,” Mensch said. “I want it to be festive, but not a house party, a more spiritual event. I just want to pull that community together because they’re really spread all over the place. No campfires, but we’ll sit around a pile of flashlights.”

The owners of the property will have a live tree on which guests can leave thank-you messages and cards for the firefighters. They will be delivered to crews and the tree will be replanted when the flames subside.

Mensch, like so many others, hopes that happens sooner rather than later.

“It’s a rain or shine event and I sure hope it rains,” he said.

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