The Hayman Fire Reclamation

Real Estate Agent with Real Estate Showcase Photography





The Hayman Fire Reclamation

The long road to recovery
Story and photos by Debi Boucher

Looking west through an area of the Pike National Forest that was damaged by the Hayman Fire in 2002.

Few who lived on the Front Range of Colorado in the summer of 2002 have forgotten the fear, anger and heartbreak they felt over the Hayman Fire. In its stead is a surreal wasteland—138,000 acres of blackened tree trunks, all that’s left of what had been a beautiful ponderosa pine forest. And damage to the environment didn’t end when the fire died. Heavy rains brought mudslides, flooding and the threat of rockslides and falling trees.

I traveled along Teller County Road 11 heading home to Woodland Park on that notorious day, June 2, 2002, and saw billowing grey smoke in the distance. It didn’t occur to me that in just a few days, the fire would be only four miles from my home and not even remotely under control.

It was estimated in April 2010 that the fire’s direct and indirect costs totaled $207 million, only 20 percent of it on fire suppression. Scientists estimate it will be some 500-600 years before the forest returns to its pre-fire state.

Reforestation efforts began immediately and continue now, nine years later. Workers collect pine and Douglas fir seeds from the area and grow them in a controlled environment for a year before replanting them in the forest. Hundreds of individuals from organizations such as the Boy Scouts and the Arbor Day and National Forest Foundations have planted thousands of seedlings. Artisans use salvaged timber for craft work, and builders use it for flooring. Conservationists use trees not suitable for such uses as barriers for erosion control.

Wild flowers are starting to flourish in the Hayman burn area.

Shell Oil Corp. raised much-needed funds, and Coleman Natural Foods sponsored the planting of 300,000 seedlings. More than 100 Vail Resort employees worked together with the U.S. Forest Service and Rocky Mountain Field Institute to assist with seeding, matting, and re-contouring slopes. Future cooperative plans include reducing sediment into our water supply, rebuilding 18 miles of recreational trails, and replanting 1,700 acres of trees.

The fish population is flourishing and wildlife returning. Big horn sheep forage in areas they didn’t visit before.

I have visited the burn area many times since 2002. I have seen the wildflowers blooming, and the aspen flourishing. Some are 15-20 feet tall now. For years I only saw devastation, but lately, I see the beauty to be found amid the scorched remains standing sentinel along the hills, ridges and valleys. The fire permanently changed the landscape, but time has changed how I view what remains in its stead.

It is worthwhile to take a drive or hike through the Hayman Fire affected portions of the Pike National Forest. The old saying, “you can’t see the forest for the trees” no longer rings true. You will now be able to see the hills as they roll across the landscape, vistas, views and rock outcroppings you may never have known existed. You may see big horn sheep where you’ve never seen them before. You will see the progress of the reclamation efforts, those made by man, and those made by nature as she works to heal the wounds of one of Colorado’s most devastating wildfires. And if you look with your eyes open, you will see beauty. Perhaps it’s not our typical definition of beauty, but beauty all the same.




Written for AAA Encompass Magazine. Copyrighted material. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without express written consent from the author.


Comments (13)

Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Red Rock Real Estate Brokered by Real - St. George, UT
St. George Utah Area Residential Sales Agent

Debi, You are right, there is still beauty there even though most people look at the whole and not the flowers, underbrush and little trees that are emerging. Enjoyed the read!

Sep 11, 2011 05:40 AM
Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

500 years is a very long time.  I know you to love see life returning to this place!

Sep 11, 2011 08:31 AM
Bruce Walter
Keller Williams Realty Lafayette/West Lafayette, Indiana - West Lafayette, IN

Debi, there is some good news in all that devastation, especially all the volunteers and the corporations who have stepped up to help  re-forest the area.  The aspen will reclaim those slopes long before the pine as is usually the case.  When Benedict Arnold cut his road through the wilderness of Maine in 1775 to invade Quebec the road to this day is a linear stretch of sugar maples among a sea of pine trees.  Easy to spot from the air in the fall with their beautiful color amid the green of the pines.  Nature does have a way of recovering from man's destructiveness. 

Sep 11, 2011 11:44 AM
Myrl Jeffcoat
Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Realtor - Retired

Debi - It is so good to see your presence here again! 

Wild fires always leave a devastating mark on the landscape.  Yet, your picture of the wildfires reminds us there is often renewal that follows.  I remember one particular trip to Hawaii, after a lava flow had come through a couple of years earlier.  When I looked closely, there were all sorts of ferns, plants, and even a young Papaya tree that were beginning to flourish in new found life. 

Sep 11, 2011 12:34 PM
Michael and Cheron Lange
Solutions Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
Associate Broker, GRI

Wow Debi...makes me miss Colorado!  Arizona has had such a devastating fire this year near Greer...Greer is comparable to the Rockies, but the devastation that was sustained is so unimaginable to think of in years!  Thank God for Life!

Cheers - Cheron

Sep 11, 2011 04:42 PM
Fred Carver Personal Real Estate Corporation
RE/MAX Camosun Victoria BC Real Estate - Victoria, BC
Accredited Real Estate Consultant

Hi Debi...Cuz. Great write up on the forest Fire, I remember forest fires near here when I was very Young ...a wee boy...ha and today the forest is back with young Trees and if you did not look for the burnt trees you would not know there had been a bad forest fire. The Loggers tell me it's natures way to start fresh, all the forest desease is eliminated to...Nice to see you blogging here again,

Love Ya Cuz!

Sep 12, 2011 04:38 AM
Debi Boucher
Real Estate Showcase Photography - Woodland Park, CO
"Realtor Showcase" - Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours

Thanks to you all for the visits. There are heros in most every tragedy, such as the folks who step up to do what they can, and nature has had lots of practice trying to fix what man messes up.

But I'm feeling awful for all those folks in Texas struggling with the heat and lack of rain that has resulted in so much destruction. Nature giveth, and nature taketh away.

Sep 13, 2011 05:20 PM
Rebecca Gaujot, Realtor®
Lewisburg, WV
Lewisburg WV, the go to agent for all real estate

Deb, glad to see you bavk in the rain. Great article and suggested.  Beauty is everywhere, we just need to open not open our eyes, but our hearts.

Sep 15, 2011 07:51 PM
John Mayer
Oikos Realty, Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach Florida - Cocoa Beach, FL
Your Beach Area Expert

Hi Debi - Nature always seems to renew itself. The wildflowers are a testament to that. It's good to see you back!

Sep 28, 2011 06:56 PM
Ann Hayden 636-399-7544
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri - Chesterfield, MO


Nature is wonderful!

Ann Hayden in Wildwood, MO

Oct 13, 2011 04:59 PM
Karen Kruschka
RE/MAX Executives - Woodbridge, VA
- "My Experience Isn't Expensive - It's PRICELESS"

Debi  I haven't checked in on you for some time, but I'm glad to see you posting away, albeit occasionally.  Nature has a way of cleansing itself and then rebuilding, even after fire caused by humans

Oct 23, 2011 04:53 AM
Ann Hayden 636-399-7544
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri - Chesterfield, MO


Where are you my friend?

Ann Hayden in Wildwood, MO

Nov 02, 2011 04:57 PM
Debi Boucher
Real Estate Showcase Photography - Woodland Park, CO
"Realtor Showcase" - Real Estate Photography/Virtual Tours

Hi Ann - I'm still around! (Believe it or not!) Busy as heck, and having a great time :) Have something fun to post and will do so very soon!

Nov 05, 2011 02:01 PM