Birthday girl to become hero to Hayman firefighters |

Birthday girl to become hero to Hayman firefighters

Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE – And Laurel Justice thought she was going to have a boring birthday.

Instead of spending time at the spa, shopping or biking in the High Country, she opted to collect meals from area restaurants Monday and distribute them to hungry firefighters on the front lines at the Hayman fire east of Hartsel.

The Colorado Springs woman, her husband and four children arrived in Breckenridge Sunday for their annual month-long visit with relatives.

As the family drove along State Hwy. 24, Justice could smell the smoke from the Hayman fire, which has burned more than 75,000 acres.

Monday, she got a call from her husband, Steven, who was commuting back to work in Colorado Springs.

“He said it was unbelievable,” Justice said. “He said there were helicopters all over – “There’s one! There’s another one!’ – there’s a tent city for the firefighters; he was just stunned. It sounded real dramatic.”

That prompted Justice into motion.

The now-38-year-old woman doesn’t volunteer her time in her hometown, except at the schools her four children attend. She’s never organized a grassroots effort or fund raiser.

“I was just sitting here, drinking coffee and looking at the mountains,” she said. “After my husband called and gave me the whole description, I had an urge to do something. I couldn’t do anything for the people in New York (last September), but I could do something for the firefighters in Lake George.”

She started calling local restaurants, most of which immediately agreed to prepare meals for the hundreds of firefighters on the line. She planned to haul the food in a trailer to Lake George Monday night.

“Everyone I’ve called said, “We could do that,'” Justice said of the willingness of restaurant and grocery store owners to chip in on the cause. “Before I knew it, I had this long list of pizzas and ribs and water bottles and salads and desserts.”

So far, her list includes 15 restaurants.

“But I’ve got more to call,” she said. “This is very addictive. Once they say yes, you get your confidence up and call more.”

The Hayman fire is one of seven fires in Colorado – and second in priority on the national list. The Coal Seam Fire west of Glenwood Springs is the nation’s top priority, primarily because it is so close to homes and other buildings.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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