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Owner of Flying W Ranch devastated by Waldo Canyon Fire: God says be joyful

Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs.
Posted at 9:52 AM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-23 15:24:25-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO — For nearly six decades, western music and chuckwagon dinners at the Flying W Ranch were a Colorado Springs staple. But on Tuesday, June 26, 2012, everything changed. The Waldo Canyon fire destroyed nearly every part of the ranch.

"We are planning to rebuild, it's just heartbreaking as to whether or not it can really be done," said Flying W Ranch General Manager Jay Chladek as he walked News5 through the rubble of the devastation shortly after the Waldo Canyon fire swept through.

Now, ten years later, there's music back in the halls and laughter. You'll often hear laughter from children at the ranch as they hand-feed baby goats.

"Look how happy everyone is," says Leigh Ann Wolfe as she helps children feed the goats.

Wolfe now owns the property her parents, Russ and Marian Wolfe, built. She says 29 major structures burned in the fire leaving almost nothing left. Somehow a large charred wooden cross is still standing as well as a building, now turned gift shop, that once housed all of her mother's cookbooks.

When asked how the building with her mother's cookbooks survived, Wolfe explained, "the fire was coming over this really, really fast and there was like a funnel around it and (the building) was in the heart of the funnel."

"I cried for 10 years," said Wolfe. "I don’t cry now."

Wolfe and her staff have spent a decade bringing back the glory that once was Flying W. It took eight years before the ranch could reopen to guests. Her father died a year before, never getting the chance to see his beloved ranch reopen.

"People don’t understand the work, the massive amount of work, that goes into an operation like this," Wolfe said. "I’m hoping that we get to a point where it isn’t quite the amount of work that it is but it is a lot a lot of work."

Now as the trees continue to grow back and life on the ranch moves on, Wolfe is reminded her faith in God keeps her smiling through the pain of losing so much.

"It doesn’t matter what we go through (God) is going to allow good in your life and he’s going to allow bad in your life," said Wolfe. "He says, 'be joyful.' It doesn’t matter if there’s good, it doesn’t matter if there’s bad, whatever you’re going through in your life he says, 'I want you to be joyful.' It’s just something I constantly work on. He wants us to be joyful no matter what you’re going through."

Learn more about the nightly dinners and western shows at Flying W Ranch.

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