Colorado Wildfires: It Takes a Community

By David Leasure, Ph.D.

Our university Chancellor is just one of the many members of our CTU family impacted by the Colorado wildfires this past summer. In his last post, he offered personal lessons learned during the experience.

Waldo Canyon WildfireThere’s one more lesson I’d like to relate from my Waldo Canyon Fire experience and that is this: it takes a community. Though an emergency is often very personal and requires individual action, the events surrounding the Waldo Canyon fire demonstrated how much we depend on each other and the institutions we’ve built. Our homeland security programs emphasize how important each of these organizations is, and how crucial it is for them to communicate effectively together.

Local, regional, and national resources came together to protect our community during the wildfires. Our local institutions included Colorado Springs Police, the Colorado Springs Fire Department, and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. These organizations were joined by others from Denver, Pueblo, the National Forest Service, the U.S. Army, and the U.S. Air Force. It didn’t hurt to have the National Incident Command team, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper, and President Obama on the scene, either.

During and after the fire, it was heartening to see non-governmental organizations working at multiple levels in the community as well. I’ve already mentioned the Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross. I’d like to go further and highlight a few more, including CTU’s Colorado Springs campus, a CTU Doctor of Management Cohort, and the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado as great examples of a community coming together.

Faculty member and night campus manager, Ron Burge, said, “The Colorado Springs campus took the Waldo fire disaster personally due to the fact that many of our internal CTU staff and faculty were directly in the path of the fire or were evacuated. Through the efforts of our staff here at CTU [Colorado] Springs, we collected over $450 dollars in gift cards and an estimated one thousand dollars in food, household goods, toys and personal items to donate to students, faculty and any community members that required assistance.”

Among the many organizations on a long-term recovery committee working to take care of everyone who was involved, I’d like to recognize the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Spokesperson Shannon Coker relates, “We've collected over 1.6 million pounds of food and over $600,000. We recently held a Farmers Market for families affected, and we gave 130,000 pounds of produce, meat, fruits, etc. to 585 families, with a vast majority coming from the Mountain Shadows area. We are continuously serving fire departments with water and Gatorade and believe that with what we have collected to this point, we will be able to meet the long term need.” See photos here.

On a more personal level, a recent cohort of the Doctor of Management degree program came together to support one of their own who lost his home in the fire. According to Krystyna Wilson, CTU Doctoral Faculty Success Coordinator, “The cohort got together and made a huge card, had the entire community sign it and then let students, staff, and faculty know there was a need for donations. The card and a check were presented by Dr. Michael Alexander and the cohort at the most recent Doctor of Management symposium." See photos here.

These examples demonstrate how dependent we are on each other and the organizations we create. Our Homeland Security and Doctor of Management programs emphasize thinking and communicating outside the normal boundaries. It takes the big ‘C’ – community – to get through a crisis. Thank you to all who made it happen.

Dr. David Leasure is the Chancellor of Colorado Technical University. He serves on the Board of Trustees and, among his many contributions at the university, is thought leader on adaptive learning, CTU’s Professional Learning Model, and institutional effectiveness.

Image Credit: @toniway Instagram