By Cathy Leestma

Appropriately, this issue of The Breeze will focus on the gratitude of people from many small communities who survived a 100 year event, The Party Rock Fire. It is said that hope is ‘the desire for a certain thing to happen’. That expectation was far exceeded when not one injury to a person or loss of a structure occurred over the nearly month long siege.

Many prayers were offered and answered. Countless individuals rose to the task in what seemed overwhelming odds that all would be lost. But it wasn’t.  We all now share in the reality that our homes, businesses and the beauty of this place we dearly love survived.

My journey through the fire was different in that I was over 2000 miles away through its duration. I was not too concerned at first, although I knew we were in a terrible drought. David and I kept close contact, sometimes with hourly calls. As the days progressed and the fire jumped containment lines and the smoke intensified, we realized that an ugly monster was on the loose.

The evacuation call came and the decision of what material possessions should be taken from our home was made. We often hear that our possessions are just ‘stuff’. Maybe so and I don’t build my life around my stuff but it can hold memories of significant times in our lives. 

That night, I came to accept that life as we knew it might never be the same again. It was a meaningful process for me to go through but it wasn’t easy.

When the weekend of the winds came and went and we were told the fire lines had held, there was great joy and overwhelming gratitude. During the critical days of the fire, I called Dorothy Conner who has lived on Buffalo Creek Road her whole life, Dorothy is 95. I asked her if she could remember another fire like Party Rock. She could not. Pray God there will never be another.