High Park Fire, 8: Sunflower Ridge Ranch

I err on the side of caution about privacy, so have not revealed a lot about what my friends who lost their home have gone through recently, other than mentioning the dogs and some other details. There is now a website created by their adult kids to help them recover from the loss of their ranch to the High Park Fire.

My friends are Kris and Earl Paige. While moving around the country for Earl's job, from which he recently retired to the ranch, Kris has been extremely active in rescue efforts involving llamas and livestock guardian dogs. She's put a lot of miles on getting animals out of bad situations, and is an avid supporter of the WOLF Sanctuary; she's been spending time during evacuation spinning and knitting items, made from Whisper's and Sigmund's fur, for the silent auction happening tomorrow night at the Waltz for the Wolves. If that wasn't enough, she recently completed the rigorous vet tech program at Front Range Community College.

Their property is Sunflower Ridge Ranch, and it took them many years to put it together. On June 22, the High Park Fire jumped the Poudre River (with more than a spot fire: a blast across the river) and ran 7 miles in 5 hours. That was the event that incinerated the ranch buildings.

This is what the ranch looked like before the fire.


This is what it looked like yesterday.


When we hear that fire evacuations have been lifted, or when another event catches our attention, we tend to think it's all over and everything goes back to normal. It doesn't.

Their llamas are in two different locations, and have had to be moved not only out of the fire area but since then. Their dogs are being temporarily moved across the country, and Kris and Earl are hunting for a place to live while they start over at the ranch.

In some ways, perhaps what grows from the ashes will be better. Sunflower Ridge Ranch was built entirely off the grid, and the solar system, while it worked well enough, was somewhat problematic. I hope the new solar system goes in without those complications. It's a small thing to wish for, but it would be nice. And more little nice things like that would be super.

Meanwhile, the people who have lost their homes are taking one issue and one minute at a time: Are the dogs okay now? Are the llamas okay now? Do we have a place to sleep tonight? Even with abundant friends, these questions rise, and they rise repeatedly for all the people affected.

There are, at latest count, 259 other stories of homes lost to this one fire, the High Park Fire; an even larger number have been lost to the Waldo Canyon Fire (with no total currently listed on Inciweb or the Colorado Springs city site), and more fires burning, including the Flagstaff Fire very close to Boulder, Colorado.


Susan Tweit's article from Audubon, 2001 and still timely, on some of the effects of wildfire on the natural environment, plants and animals.

Notes from Colorado State University Vet Hospital on animals who found refuge there.



9 thoughts on “High Park Fire, 8: Sunflower Ridge Ranch”

  1. I can only just imagine what is happening to the Paiges and others like them. I know such a thing could happen where we live. I send them our heartfelt good wishes and hope that their resilience will see them through. Glad all are safe. Hopefully their phoenix will rise from the ashes again.

    I watch anxiously for further updates.

  2. These fires are not good at all – we know about fires and it sorta makes me glad that I now live in Seattle (not that far from the last of your Burke Gilman trail pics with the sheep for brains path graffiti in it). Then again I miss scorching crisp days and if we were there we’d probably bring badly needed rain with us. We are good like that.

  3. Thanks for all your good thoughts, which are what are sustaining the people involved.

    And I appreciate the update on Waldo Canyon, Amanda. I was writing while in the airport waiting for a delayed plane and remembered the number of homes lost was in the mid-300s, but couldn’t confirm.

    The Denver Post and 9News in Denver have been good resources in general. For the High Park Fire, the combination of the Larimer County Emergency website and Inciweb have been invaluable.

  4. Just a note that those bright green roofs were metal, for fire resistance, and both house and barn were built from materials that would have fended off the fire if anything could have.

  5. Whenever I feel like complaining about the record number of rainy days and the record cool temperatures out here on the Wet Coast, I stop and think that the alternative could be much worse. I’ve been watching the news about the heat wave combined with wind and lightening storms with resultant power outages in the States. While we have had flooding in my area, and the farmers are concerned about the lack of sun, we are very lucky here.

  6. I really don’t know what to say, except thank you for describing what’s happening at this fire from your perspective, so I know much more than if I was just relying on quick, sensationalist media reports here in the UK. The information about the fire fighting services is fascinating to compare to ours.

  7. We had double the “normal” rainfall for June and thus were spared here from this possibility.

    But so many of my friends (and friends-of-friends) have been decimated by this year’s wave of flames, whether from fires on the ground or the one beating down from the sky.

    It’s so hard to watch the coverage of the heatwave or the fires, and then look around where I am to see flooded pathways and wetlands, and not feel utterly helpless.

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