As the conflagration swept through Pike National Forest in June a decade ago, donation jars popped up at businesses in Woodland Park, evacuees met in community buildings to hear the latest reports, and emergency shelters were activated as far away as Castle Rock.
At one point, firefighters were desperate enough to try digging fire breaks with Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. massive bulldozers; the machinery proved too large and was turned back. The fire's ferocity even created weather patterns. Towering mushroom clouds swelled over the fire and then moved east to dump hail on the plains in the evening.
Heroic stories circulated, with firefighters risking their lives trying to protect homes and evacuate residents. At one point, the fire came within six miles of Woodland Park, and more than 2,000 firefighters battled it.
Started June 8, 2002 by forestry technician Terry Barton, eight miles northwest of Lake George, the Hayman (named for a Tappan Gulch mine site) raged for weeks. It burned 137,760 acres, charring millions of stately aspens and firs and leaving matchsticks and blackened earth behind. More than 130 homes and 466 outbuildings were destroyed. Barton served six years in prison before being released in 2008 to serve a 15-year probation.
Restoration efforts have ranged from helicopter drops of wood-fiber hydromulch to hand-planting of tree seedlings. While some areas remain stark, photographer Sean Cayton — who was there 10 years ago and returned this spring — discovers here that other spots show small signs of new life.