Grand Lake carries on in year since fire
A year ago, Grand Lake sat empty as almost everyone fled the East Troublesome Fire.
No one knew what would be left — their favorite trail, their house, their town. It could all be gone. Grand Lake was still standing, though much of its surrounding community was devastated. The emotional and physical trauma of that night lingers.
The town has spent the year healing, but Grand Lake Mayor Steve Kudron said it’s a strange feeling on the anniversary.
“I didn’t lose any physical things. I didn’t lose a family member. I am truly blessed to be a here a year later with everything that I had a year ago,” Kudron said. “I feel for those that don’t, but I can’t understand or think to understand the depth of that pain.”
Economically, the town has seen a strong recovery over the last year. Grand Lake Town Manager John Crone said sales tax receipts are looking to be $800,000 higher than the previous record.
But that’s not the only way he measures recovery.
“Emotionally, socially, it’s been a long hard process,” Crone said. “A lot of people are still kind of traumatized and feeling pain about this all.”
Grand Lake is bringing together the community this Saturday for a meal thanking first-responders. Crone and Kudron acknowledge that some aren’t ready to relive the events and will be avoiding the town this weekend, but Grand Lake will be providing a space for those who find healing in togetherness.
Grand Lake was also able to bring back events this year, celebrating the Fourth of July, Buffalo Days and the new Troublesome Fest. Both men credit these events with helping in the healing process, along with the Troublesome Stories exhibit.
“It truly has been a place of healing for so many and a place of understanding for so many others,” Kudron said. “I don’t know how well we could’ve answered those questions without Troublesome Stories and without all the work (everyone did).”
Along with the trauma of last year, the fear of another wildfire lingers in Grand Lake.
“In many ways, it seems that it was just yesterday that this all happened,” Crone said. “You know, I just worry. I worry about things I didn’t think I’d be worrying about before. We’re relatively safe from fire danger right now, but every single day I think about it.”
Kudron hopes that heading into the winter, businesses and locals get a chance to breathe and slow down. Once the snow falls, he is looking to find the sense of normalcy that was lost last year.
“If we could take a pause from the worldwide crises, I think that would be just OK,” Kudron said with a laugh. “We all came up to Grand Lake to get away from some of the mess that exists everywhere else, and I hope to get back to that real soon.”
Healing will take much longer than a year. There’s still properties to clean up and community members who need help.
As the physical burn scar fades, town leaders in Grand Lake plan to continue nursing the less visible ones.
“To everyone out there, we’re all still here for you,” Crone said. “We all understand that this is a personal and emotional issue for many people. Just because a year has gone by, doesn’t mean that we’re not still here for you.”
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