by Ellis Thompson-Ellis
When you find yourself sticking your head in the deep freezer for relief from the heat, it’s time to go to the mountains. So I’m planning a trip. The only thing is many of our lovely mountains seem to be on fire right now – to the tune of 210,000 acres. After hours of scouring The Google Machine for air quality, fire lines, and cross-referencing places to camp and hike, I finally found THE SPOT. As long as no one in the region even thinks about fire or anything hot for that matter, I’ll be there shortly after work.
I haven’t lived in Colorado for any amount of time that I can claim as a badge of honor, but I’ve never had to work this hard just to visit mountains without the impending threat of a fire. My heart breaks for those communities battling blazes, losing homes, and breathing smoke.
SPOILER ALERT: reading beyond this point you’ll find relentless optimism and the kind of warm fuzzy feelings that Mr. Rogers inspires.
All of this got me thinking- I’m really proud of our community and I’m really proud to have you, yes, YOU, the person reading this as my neighbor. Your support of the fire restrictions, a fireworks ban, and your continued vigilance with fire safety has helped us avoid a major incident up to this point. It’s kept our community safe, and my brothers and sisters at the Fire Department safe; for that my gratitude knows no bounds. I’m proud because I’ve had conversations with you about our extreme fire risk and because you’ve asked me questions about how to be fire wise. I’ve seen you working on your property to protect our community, you’re active in your neighborhood watch, you’re talking about fire safety on social media, and most importantly: you’re having constructive talks with our other neighbors too.
Fires don’t stop at property lines and fences. We depend on each other to make responsible choices and to work together to keep our community safe. The optimist in me believes that we’ve avoided a major incident this summer because you are building relationships in our community, because we’re setting a social expectation for each other, and because we care enough about everyone around us to have the conversation about fire safety before a fire starts.
I know we’re not clear of fire danger yet, but I’m so encouraged by your work so far. Thank you Mesa County, for making our community stronger, supporting responsible choices when it comes to fire danger, and above all for being my neighbor.
Author Note: Ellis is a Community Outreach Specialist for the Grand Junction Fire Department. She teaches free fire and life safety classes in the community for all ages, and works with the news media to get out correct information when a fire or emergency incident occurs in Grand Junction. Outside of work, Ellis is enthusiastic about exploring the Colorado landscapes, spending time with her husband and two dogs, cooking spicy food, and meeting new people.