Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sparky The Wildfire Elk

(story continued from previous post)

While Phillip was paying for our wonderful lunch at Mildred's, Laura and I walked next door to check out this big blue elk. It was standing tall outside a little shop called, Born of the Flames. As it turns out "Sparky" tells a story of the largest wildfire in Colorado's history. You can read more about it here, here, and here. Apparently, the fire was started by a forest service employee who was trying to burn a love letter. She had actually given out several violations that very day. The shop owner (shown below) lives on 40 acres which burned in the Hayman fire and documented, with photos, all the various stages of the tragedy. The first picture is the side of Sparky when the forest is burning. The artist used the original photos to depict, with amazing accuracy, all the various stages of rescue, recovery, and restoration efforts. Many of the workers she [the shop owner] knows by name.

The other side of Sparky (below) shows how the recovery effort has paid off over the last 5+ years. The grass is now growing in the forest and the Aspen trees are fully restored as they only take three weeks to recover. The Pines and the cones all burned so they had to be replanted from seedlings. One of the hazards of a forest fire is what's called a root pit which occurs when the pine tree burns all the way down to the roots. When a pine tree burns, because of it's sap, it can explode causing the entire tree to become like a rocket shooting up as high as 300 ft. in the air. Upon landing, the tree then begins a fire in another area of the forest.

The Aspens, on the other hand, will fare much better because of their root system. They are all connected underground in what is called a colony. The offspring, or shoots, is the exact clone of the parent tree. When one tree catches fire it forces all the sap to the root system which protects the tree, leaving it without any "fuel" so to speak. After the threat of fire, the Aspen will then replace its sap naturally. For more about Aspens click here.

Sparky now goes to schools all over the Colorado Springs area and educates the public about forestry, wildfires, and fire safety. The shop was literally "Born of the Flames" and now features all sorts of handmade items, some of which are hand carved from Aspen trees. The lady who spoke to us was very knowledgeable and incredibly passionate about what she was talking about. As we have traveled West in the last year, I've become keenly aware of things I once only knew as places "over there". And though I may never jump on the extreme environmentalist bandwagon, I do have more of an appreciation of God's creation. I said a little prayer as I was standing there, thanking the Lord for our little study on wildfires.

BTW: As we said our good-byes and thanked the lady for the educational story we soon discovered that she was from TEXAS! ~ She went to school in Athens (which is just 18 miles from our house) and moved to Colorado to continue college. She never went home. >

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