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Community support provided hope during the dark days of the Black Forest Fire

From helping fire victims sort through the ashes to supporting fire crews, people remember these as important moments
Posted at 7:04 AM, Jun 15, 2023

BLACK FOREST — From special moments of appreciation for the first responders who rushed to the scene of the Black Forest Fire. To the hundreds of volunteers who came to town to help people pick up the pieces, these helpers and encouragers provided moments during this tough time that will be remembered forever.

News5 digs into why community support was so important during this disaster and the days that followed.

”It’s a little amazing to me now that it’s still affecting me as much as it is. It’s kind of surprising me that it’s been 10 years,” said Terri Hayes, who evacuated her home during the Black Forest Fire.

She says when she saw the smoke near her home in Black Forest a decade ago, she knew it would be bad.

”It was just so overwhelming just how big that fire plume and that smoke plume was, that it is forever ingrained into my mind,” said Hayes.

Another lasting memory she has is the help she received to evacuate her home and the support from the community.

”I had some very good friends that didn’t even call me; they just showed up at my house and helped load me up and just said let us go. It was tough. It was a tough time,” said Hayes.

As the fire burned quickly across the landscape, scorching homes in its path, Hayes says the fire was stopped just a quarter mile from her home.

”We decided we had to do something. We went and made some banners that said thank you firefighters, and we went to where they were staging and just said thank you for saving our homes because our little neighborhood of 50 homes, we came through it ok,” said Hayes.

Dr. Bob Bender remembers the heart-wrenching moments of working as a chaplain alongside Black Forest firefighters, assisting the community during the fire.

”The Black Forest Fire is indelibly impressed in the psyche of our people, of our community, and of our church. And forever will be,” said Dr. Bender.

While pastoring his church through the fire, Dr. Bender says many people came there for help.

At one point, he even had to evacuate the church. But in the days that followed, he was blown away by the nationwide response to help those who lost everything.

”What occurred was just amazing,” said Dr. Bender.

“We had 1,000 volunteers over a ten-week period come into our church, about 100 a week. Our church became the headquarters for going into these homes and sifting and ministering and offering hope and healing and help to those who lost their homes.”

Now a decade later, Dr. Bender says it’s a blessing to reflect on the resilience of the Black Forest community.

”Slowly, slowly, we recover, and we rebuild, and we renew, and we reflect, and we move forward with our lives. In a way that hopefully makes us stronger,” said Dr. Bender.

Months after the fire, first responders were honored during a parade in Monument.

”And the amount of people who have come out was incredible. It was by far one of the most special memories I have,” said Hayes.

Dr. Bender remembers the crucial support for the first responders who worked day and night during this disaster.

”The thing that I remember most was the look on their faces just to know that somebody thanked them, somebody cared, somebody did the best they could to show appreciation. You can’t do too much of that,” said Dr. Bender.

Even today, the Black Forest Fire Department is leaning on neighbors to help other neighbors, try to prevent a large fire like this in their community in the future.

For more information on community fire education classes and fire mitigation help, you can visit bffire.org.

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