roh morgon

~before and after

(This is an updated post from July 17, 2012)

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I just can’t stop thinking about the devastation and loss of life caused by the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs and the surrounding mountains, an area I left 35 years ago. It used to look like this:


Ute Pass, looking toward the Continental Divide – May 2009 ©Roh Morgon

I spent two years in the Springs and the neighboring communities of Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls, and Cascade. Just out of high school, my life was wild and carefree and filled with adventures. I loved the Pikes Peak mountain area and have always dreamed of returning someday.


Ute Pass above Colorado Springs – May 2009 ©Roh Morgon

Writers frequently use settings with which they are familiar. So when I began writing Sunny’s journey in January 2009, it seemed only natural that she would head to such an ideal location for someone of her unique nature.

As she drew me into her story, the sound of the wind in the trees echoed in my mind, and my nose filled with the fresh scents of pines and summer storms. I typed, fast and furious, knowing I was only capturing a fraction of the nuances that made up her world, and hoped my memory of the area wasn’t too rusty and faded.


Cascade, Colorado – May 2009 ©2012 Roh Morgon

And then in May 2009, when Watcher was nearly complete, I had a rare opportunity to visit the Springs while in Colorado on business. It would be my first visit in 35 years.

My friend Jeanne, with whom I’d first ventured to that magical land so many years before, still lived there. It felt like old times as we set off together to visit the locations in the story, to see if everything was as I recalled it.


Pike National Forest – May 2009 ©2012 Roh Morgon

And, surprisingly, it was. Even the Cascade house in which I’d lived, empty the day we visited, looked exactly as it did when I moved out. We tromped though old stomping grounds and made new discoveries (and found a castle!) and had an amazing time retracing Sunny’s steps.

It was with great sadness that I said farewell to Jeanne and Pikes Peak, promising I would return again when I had more time. The first draft of Watcher was completed two weeks later.


Lupine in Cascade, Colorado – May 2009 ©2012 Roh Morgon

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Now the area looks nothing like it did 35 years ago, or even three years ago. Sunny’s mountain and hunting area behind her house were completely destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire.


Photo by Jenny Bloom from Eagle Avenue in Manitou Springs

Photo by Kari Greer near Colorado Springs

But worse, people lost their homes, their pets, their family heirlooms – they lost everything they owned.

And two people lost their lives.


Photo by Kari Greer – Mountain Shadows subdivision, Colorado Springs

Photo by Dave Perl – Mountain Shadows cul-de-sac devastation

I’d actually been contemplating making a road trip to the Springs when I heard the news about the fire. It started June 23, and over the next two-and-a-half weeks, over 32,000 people were evacuated, more than 18,000 acres burned, 346 homes destroyed, and two people died. The estimated cost of this fire alone is $352.6 million dollars, making it the most expensive in Colorado’s history.

I can only imagine a glimmer of how those families must be feeling as they cope with their losses. My heart goes out to them, as well as to the forest and the creatures that it fed and sheltered.


Photo by Kari Greer – Humans weren’t the only ones who lost their homes

I don’t know if I’ll make that trip now. I can’t bear to see those mountains covered in ash, dotted with the black skeletons of trees and brush. Unfortunately, my imagination does paint a vivid picture of that scene. I know it’s nothing compared to the real thing.


Photo by Kari Greer – Over 18,000 acres were burned

But the devastation could have been worse. Hundreds of firefighters from all over the country risked their lives fighting this superfire and its deadly allies of blazing temperatures and rugged terrain. The valiant efforts of these men and women kept many more homes from being lost.


Photo by Kari Greer – Below Blodgett Peak with California’s Vandenberg Hotshots

Though the fire is no longer in the news, donations are still needed. Three hundred and forty-six families lost everything when their homes burned. If you’d like to help, there are a number of charitable organizations focused on the recovery from this horrendous disaster.

Colorado 2-1-1 offers an extensive list of disaster assistance centers which can help you decide where to donate.

Colorado Springs Together also has suggestions for donors.

Humans weren’t the only victims of this fire. The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region took in well over 400 animals that were displaced by the fire. Many have been returned to their owners, but there are still a number of under shelter care until they can be reunited with their families.

Local agencies are critical in times of disaster and frequently exhaust their resources assisting people in need. The Waldo Canyon Firefighters Fund benefits the local fire stations whose hard work and expense fighting the fire saved many homes and lives.


Photo by Erik Eide, Cascade Volunteer Fire Department – Working on a hotspot

Photo by Erik Eide, Cascade Volunteer Fire Department

Photo by Kari Greer – Thank you sign in Mountain Shadows subdivision

Photo by Kari Greer – Overwhelming community support at the Incident Command Post

And a final thanks from me to the photographers who graciously allowed me to share their photos: Jenny Bloom, Kari Greer, Dave Perl, and Erik Eide.

I leave you with this:


Photo by Kari Greer – A testament to the human spirit

Please donate.

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** As I mentioned in my last post, my own resources are limited. But I do write. Since Pikes Peak and the Colorado Springs area were such important parts of my novel, Watcher: Book I of The Chosen, I’m donating 50% of its net proceeds thru the end of October to help those suffering from this catastrophe. **

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roh morgon @ Friday, 17 August 2012 11:40 pm
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~blazing nightmare

(this is an updated post from June 27, 2012)

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Sunny’s Colorado home, the mountain she loved so much, is burning.


Photo taken by
L.N. Batides June 26, 2012 from Briargate in the Colorado Springs area.


Photo taken by
Dan Martinez June 26, 2012 near western part of Colorado Springs.

Worse yet, the homes of Colorado Springs area residents are also burning.

Over 15,000 acres of forest have burned. Hundreds of homes have been lost, and more than 32,000 people have been evacuated.

I cannot imagine the fear of losing everything to a roaring inferno, nor grasp the impact of watching your home, your hopes and dreams, burn to the ground.


Photo taken by
J. Stewart on Night 4 of the Waldo Canyon fire.

However, I can feel perhaps a glimmer of the pain, both of those who are living this real-life nightmare, and as someone who spent time on Sunny’s special mountain during a particularly troubled part of  my life.

My heart goes out to all those who’ve lost their homes and lives in this tragedy – human, animal, and the forest itself.

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This is the first post in a series I’m doing on the Waldo Canyon fire and its impact on Colorado Springs area residents.

I’d like to thank Springs locals Dan Martinez, Jake Stewart, and L.N. Batides for the kind use of their photos.

My next post will give you a glimpse of what some of the area looked like before the fire, as well as some of the devastation documented by local residents and photographers, so be sure to check back.

I’ll also provide links for those of you who would like to donate to the ongoing recovery efforts. There’s lots of ways to help. Not only do the victims who lost their homes need assistance, so do the animal shelters caring for the hundreds of displaced pets as well as the local fire stations who exhausted their resources fighting this ‘superfire’.

My own resources are somewhat limited, and since I live about 1,200 miles away, there’s not much I can do to help with the cleanup.

However, I do write. Since Pikes Peak and the Colorado Springs area were such important parts of my novel, Watcher: Book I of The Chosen, I’ve decided to donate 50% of its net proceeds thru the end of October to help those suffering from this catastrophe.

I encourage any other artists out there to consider doing the same. Every little bit helps.

My last thought for the day:

Be grateful for what you have, because it can be gone with one wisp of smoke.

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roh morgon @ Monday, 6 August 2012 7:46 am
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