Publisher’s Letter: WILL IT BURN?

By Blaine Howerton, Publisher
North Forty News

In one of my previous letters, I wrote about the tough year that 2020 has been for me. I wrote about how it all started in January when my small writer’s studio blew over, my truck got stuck in frozen winter mud for months up on a mountain, I had a death in the family and then the pandemic reared its ugly head. Everything seemed uncertain including the future of our newspaper.

Well, I have another one to add to the “Ain’t It Awful” list for 2020!

On August 22 the Lewstone fire started in Rist Canyon leaving the future of my property uncertain. Less than a mile away, the fire was heading straight for us. Just the next ridge over, slurry bombers and helicopters were circling, making drops to quell the flames.

As smoke and ash filled the canyon, with my two sons, I decided to grab whatever we could from the writer’s studio. Would what we had worked so hard to build (and then build again over the summer) survive?

PHOTO BY BLAINE HOWERTON; The view of the Lewstone fire on August 22, 2020

Thanks to the hard work of around 100 firefighters, air and ground teams, and no doubt, many prayers, property that burned only 8 years ago in the High Park fire was spared from this one.

I found a lesson in all this — I came to understand that it really didn’t matter what happened to the property and all my efforts. My family and I were safe. We had a blast building this small studio over the summer and made some lifetime memories as a result. And when you “wing it” when starting your work as a carpenter and builder, there are always things you learn along the way that you wish you had done differently. If our efforts went up in flames, we could rebuild again — and we could build back better!

You may be surprised to read that I enjoy the property so much, in part, because it burned 8 years ago. The rapid regeneration of nature is quite remarkable — the flowers, the baby trees, the birds and the wildlife are back and the land is teeming with new life. And if the worst happened and it was all consumed in flames, it would come back again.

I remind myself that in such a natural setting I am a guest of nature on this property — and whatever nature brings is not up to me. I will have to adapt. In 2020, like so many of our readers, I have been tested again and again.

That night up on the mountain, I prayed that those who had much more at stake would be safe, that they wouldn’t be discouraged, and they too, could return home and enjoy life on their mountain properties.

Returning to Fort Collins, I spent the night sharing with our community, on our website and our online Daily Digest, as much accurate news of the Lewstone fire as possible. Having been up there, and noting obvious errors in other media, I realized I had to press on and do more in the form of accurate coverage. To my surprise, more than 10,000 people almost immediately read the coverage I stayed up all night to provide. Tired though I was, if I helped one person, just one person, I did my job. And then, I prayed that the best would happen in resolving the Lewstone Fire and that all the residents in its wake would be safe.

That prayer has been answered. Due to the heroic efforts of our firefighters, both in the air and on the ground, no life or structure was lost and I still get to enjoy my little writer’s studio up on the mountain.

As I write this, fire fighting planes are circling watching for hot spots. I send my thanks to those hard-working people who risk their lives on the frontlines to keep me, my family and so many others safe — in fires, in pandemics, even in grocery stores.

Like I said a few weeks ago, in most cases, what seems so bad at the moment, may not look so bad in the future. In this fire-induced crisis, I got to know my neighbor a little better while we sat for hours watching those planes overhead.

Despite all its challenges, this summer has provided lifetime memories. With many more on the way, I wish no less for our readers!



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Blaine Howerton

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