BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Signs of new life are showing up in Boulder County, exactly one year since the Calwood Fire burned more than 10,000 acres in only a few days.
The fast-moving fire started Oct. 17, 2020 on the property of Cal-Wood Education Center. The nonprofit organization provides opportunities and programs aimed at teaching kids and families about the outdoors in Colorado.
“It was just a crazy day. We had a group of families on the property with our instructors and my priority was to evacuate everybody,” Executive Director of Cal-Wood Education Center Rafael Salgado said.
Salgado noticed the smoke coming from their property around 11:30 a.m.
“When firefighters showed up they were even surprised how fast it was moving. At one point they were just trying to make a plan of attack and a few minutes later the fire was gone, they had to change the whole scope of work,” Salgado said.
The fire pushed east, destroying dozens of homes and structures. The buildings at Cal-Wood Education Center were spared but the fire burned through roughly 600 acres on the property.
“This is our classroom. This is where we’ve had thousands of kids exploring and making memories about their experience in the outdoors,” Salgado said.
Salgado said they had to shut down their programs for months after the fire. They’re now back open, and are considering adding a wildfire research center to their operation.
Fire mitigation is currently their main focus. Salgado said they’ve completed a mulch project on the soil that will help prevent further erosion in the areas that were badly burned, but there are still a lot of questions about how to restore the land and ecosystem.
“What areas do we need to plant trees? What areas do we need to not plant trees? What areas maybe do we need to leave it open like a grassland?” Salgado said.
New grasses have grown across the burn area and there are even small trees starting to pop up. Those are hopeful signs but Salgado said it will take years to mend the damage.
“For many years I knew we were going to have a fire. I know another fire is going to happen, we just don’t know when,” Salgado said.