June 13, 2012
The Colorado High
Park Fire and Us
June 29, 2012
High Park Fire
Pics & Update
July 1, 2012
Our First Trip
Back to "Paradise"
July 12, 2012
Ash Day
Reality Check
August 6, 2012
Progress Report &
Pics on the Fire
August 16, 2012
Before & After
Fire Pics
September 12, 2012
After Fire
Progress Update
September 27, 2012
Work Parties and
Donkey Story
November 29, 2012
OK - The Black
Truth Blog
January 2, 2013
Looking Forward,
Looking Back
June 18, 2013
One Year Later -
The High Park Fire
September 20, 2013
We Weathered
the Storm


The following letter was sent on August 16, 2012:

Before and After Fire Pics & Update
  Colorado High Park Fire

(contains lots of photos - please be patient as they load)
For those of you who wish to read or missed my past letters, they are posted on our website at

Thank you so much for your continued encouragement, advice, and support. Mike and I are still slogging through the mind-bending process of preparing the House Inventory list for the insurance company. It's frustrating to have to spend time researching and logging the price of everything from a can of hairspray to a custom-made kitchen table, but it has to be done. I'll be so glad when we can successfully put this step behind us and focus on moving forward. One positive aspect - this project has forced us to concentrate and get the brain juices focused. It's hard and exhausting, but it's helped us jump-start the process of moving out of mental zombie land.

In the meanwhile, we have made our fist shopping trip to town to start restocking my new office with everything from paper clips to Post-it notes. Hooray for Post-it notes! Friends have also donated various pieces of office equipment and supplies, and I've cobbled together enough items to start the process of catching up on my business. Hopefully by the end of the month I can get back to the FUN STUFF like planning dances and other events to share with you.

I'll start with a series of photos taken on June 9, the day the fire first burst from a smoldering lightning strike the previous Wednesday to a dangerous fire. This first photo was taken by me around 10 AM that morning from my driveway, after a neighbor phoned to inform us of the fire. At first Mike had hope the northwest winds would drive it around us, and since the firefighters were already working it both on the ground and in the air, it looked at one point they'd stomp it down. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong, and the fuel was too dense and dry.

Photo taken around 10:00 AM from my driveway, before any evacuation order was issued.
We think we pealed out of there somewhere between 12 and 12:30 PM
(we weren't watching the clock anymore).

Laurie, my firefighter neighbor's wife, shared with me several dramatic photos she took of the fire literally IN Paradise Park before she evacuated a few hours after us on June 9. What a scary sight. While we know our house survived until the following afternoon, her photos appear to show the flames already surrounding and possibly in our meadow, just behind the ridge of trees in the foreground. Part of me wishes I could have been here to see it, and part of me realizes better now why Mike vehemently hustled me out of there before it reached this terrifying point. It's one thing to see photos of the forest fire on the news from a distance, but quite another to see it surrounding your own home.

12:22 PM, photo taken by Laurie less than a mile from our house, probably about the time we left.

12:51 PM, taken at our closest neighbors.
The ridge of trees you see just beyond the snow fence are ours.

1:10 PM - Here's the really scary one.
Again, the flaming smoke you see is from our property, just beyond the trees.
Good thing Mike got us out of there when he did.

Thank you, Laurie, for your photos and for sharing your brave husband, Jim, throughout this whole ordeal. Jim spent almost every night in Paradise Park after the fire raced through (he was dispatched elsewhere when the fire "blew up" on our road on June 10), doing his part to make sure no additional homes were lost. Jim and his fellow local volunteer fire fighters were among the first responders to the fire. They are our heroes.

2:14 PM. One of the massive water-dropping helicopters sucks water from a neighbor's pond.

Photo below taken at 2:49 PM, as firefighter Jim and his wife Laurie help evacuate more of our neighbors, and the helicopter prepares for another drop.

By the next day about the time this photo was taken, the ferocious winds had caused the fire to spread to 14,000 acres, and 20 miles away, entire towns were being evacuated, and you know the rest of the story...

Most of you never had the opportunity to visit our home, so below are a few photos to give you a better perspective of "before." Mike moved up here 31 years ago and built this house from scratch, piece by piece and part by part over the years. It had a glass solarium on the front, which provided solar heat during the winter months. We had a wonderful cast iron wood stove which provided cozy warmth at night and on cloudy days. It was a good house, with plenty of room for me to have an office, and host family, friends, and clients.

We had five outbuildings that burned completely, too. Here was our woodshed and utility shed.

In our house, many a happy hour was spent with friends around the custom-made butcher block dining room table, and, being the artist that he is, Mike had on display a beautiful collection of Tiffany glass lamps, Italian glass vases, and hand-signed Western art, along with historic clothing pieces and irreplaceable Hudson Bay blankets. When it was time to evacuate and he saw the smoke cloud exploding over our shoulders, there was no time left to take any of these valuables along. They will be missed.

Below is a photo time line of sorts, of the house burned, sifted, and cleared.

We have already met with two highly skilled architect/builder friends of ours who are advising us on how we can remodel the Studio to make it better suited for our needs now. We plan to build a Western-styled storage unit where our old Utility Shed used to stand, in which to temporarily move Mike's leather studio and our storage items while we gut and rebuild the Studio. We need to build this new unit soon, before the weather turns for winter. In the spring, when we've had time to breathe and ponder our finances and options, we will consider what we want to do with the large dirt platform that used to be our home. Mike has suggested a tennis court and swimming pool....  : )

Here's a cool comparison of the meadow on June 30, taken 3 weeks after the fire came through, and again a couple of weeks ago, after receiving more rain and the meadow grass grew back. We are so grateful to have this oasis of green to look at every day. It helps us to cope with the poor burnt mountain, which hopefully will blossom with healthy plants and underbrush by next spring. The baby aspen trees are already choking many of the mountain's gullies with beautiful greenery.

Photo taken June 30, three weeks after the fire swept Paradise Park:

Photo taken July 24, three and a half weeks later:

Yesterday we received a letter from the Forest Service, stating they plan to "bomb" the mountain across from us with wood mulch and weed-free straw by helicopter to help prevent erosion and encourage the native plant life to grow back by next spring. Hopefully I'll be here that day to get photos. Should be pretty exciting. I was shocked to find ash had flowed all the way from the mountain to the middle of our meadow. The grass is absolutely loving this free fertilizer; however, Mike is concerned it could be too much of a good thing, and he's already taken steps with the help of kind friends from Cheyenne and Parker to cut down burnt underbrush, take it into the woods, and stack it in the gullies to try to prevent too much washout.

The ash pouring off the mountain in the early weeks after the fire had already choked up our upper pond. It's starting to settle, but Mike figures he'll need to get a backhoe up here one day to do some cleaning up on the property. Where our meadow burnt completely down to bare dirt, weeds like thistle are taking over, and will need to be mowed down in some places and pulled by hand in others.

Our upper pond was filled with ash runoff from the mountain.

For those of you who think "Studio" means "studio apartment," let me clarify - by no means! Our studio, for which we are immensely grateful survived the firestorm, is over 2500 square feet in size, and the upstairs is quite lovely. It is fully liveable, and we lived here for a year when we were first married. It was originally a barn, and so the half of the building which serves as our workshop (Mike's leather studio, his painting studio, his office, my sewing studio, our research library, storage), is rather "rough" in places. The tree poles which were used in constructing the original horse stalls are still visible, and the east side of the building doesn't even have a concrete foundation, which is how the skunk got in.

The upstairs of our Studio. Downstairs is where you can still see the barn poles.

We are so appreciative God spared our meadow of green, our studio and garage, and gave us a familiar place to which to return. So many people in our county lost everything, and their whole properties are now in the "black zone." We have such a good network of neighbors, and this tragic event has helped draw us together. Everywhere you go, you see evidence of folks cleaning up, helping out, and planning
fund-raisers for the fire department.

This photo of our exhausted local volunteer firefighter neighbor and hero, Jim Terrell, was taken on June 11, the day after the fire exploded out of control on our north road. Along with two HotShot teams, Jim personally kept watch over Paradise Park and our surviving studio for the next three weeks as the fire raged on. We are so grateful...

Wanna help? There's plenty of work for everyone! Just on our 40 acres alone, we need to plant seed, cut down burnt trees, clear burnt underbrush, move fire-risky items into safer zones, build a new storage shed, gut and remodel our workspace, critter-proof the home, dig out ponds, pull thistle, and more, and's rather overwhelming and certainly too much for just the two of us. We will be announcing "Work Party" days, but anytime now if some of you find you have a day free and really meant it when you said you wanted to come help, please call or write and we'll gratefully book a date.

As always, thank you again for your continued support, both via prayers, kind words, donations, and gift cards - blessed gift cards! - while we slog through everything necessary. Almost every day shows small steps in a positive direction. Tears still flow when they need to, but that's to be expected, and they are balanced by laughter with good friends. You know we'll make it.

Most sincerely and with continued great appreciation,
Sharon & Mike Guli

PO Box 127
Bellvue, CO 80512