On October 21, 2020—one year ago today—the East Troublesome Fire swept through our community and blazed an unimaginable path of devastation. But that disaster also kindled an overwhelming connection and warmth in Grand County.
Strangers drove to Costco and brought up bundles of warm coats and boots. Ordinary citizens organized meals, donation centers, and work bees. Those who’d lost everything in the fire were signing up to help other evacuees in any way they could. Countless dollars flowed in to help neighbors, ranchers, and businesses whose worlds changed in a heartbeat.
We were already in the midst of the pandemic and struggling with economic, social, and emotional challenges. Many of us wondered how we’d get through it all. As the community continued to give and our hearts began to swell, the answer became very clear: We’d get through it together.
Disasters have a way of bringing out the best in us. When tragedy strikes, we instinctively turn toward each other, for help and to help. Feelings of stress and loss lead us to a sense of vulnerability and loss of control. When faced with such emotion, we reach out and seek comfort from others and often in the form of giving. The Grand Foundation saw this overwhelmingly in the days, weeks, and months following the fire.
Donations and help poured in as the magnitude of the fire’s impact surfaced: 193,812 acres were burned, 366 homes lost, and nearly $190 million in damage. It is the second most destructive wildfire in our state’s history.
But our community and those far beyond its borders rose to the occasion. Within hours, the Grand Foundation had created the Grand County Wildfire Emergency Assistance Fund. Donations flooded in, and to date, the fund has surpassed $3.8 million.
These funds provided those impacted with shelter, basic needs, mental health, counseling, and much more. Rent assistance, help with insurance deductibles, building permits, and legal fees were funded to assist homeowners in rebuilding.
There have been other, less obvious, and more long-term needs the Grand County Wildfire Emergency Assistance Fund is supporting. Everything from free grass seed to water-quality protection, reforestation, nature conservancy, and flood mitigation.
There is something about the collapse of our “normal” existence that happens after a disaster that awakens the best, most altruistic aspects of ourselves. It’s this caring spirit that has enabled us to fund community partners, individuals, and the important work of rebuilding and recovery.
As we reflect on the anniversary of the fire, it is with a sense of appreciation and gratitude for all who have stepped in to serve their friends and neighbors during this time. With thankful hearts, we know you are what makes our county Grand.