Colorado author relives wildfire tragedy for Summit County residents
“A Survivor’s Guide to Getting Wildfire Smart” will be presented as Part of the Homeowners Wildfire Series, sponsored by the Summit County Forest Health Task Force, on Wednesday, August 21 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Frisco Community Center on Third and Granite.
Linda Masterson was living in a picturesque setting — the kind many Coloradans dream of — in a modern cabin amid the wilderness, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Her life changed in 2011 when she awoke to a boom. She ran upstairs, looked out the sliding glass doors and saw a giant wall of flames cascading toward her home. Masterson described the scene as terrifying, as she and her husband scrambled to alert neighbors, gather their things and flee the scene. Flames followed behind them as they retreated from their property.
“It was almost like a horror film,” she said.
The common “I thought it could never happen to me” mentality was the first in a series of lessons the Coloradan would learn about wildfires. However, Masterson said she hadn’t been complacent. She and her husband made conscious efforts to prepare for a wildfire. But she’d hadn’t considered all the things she could have done to protect her home and family from the calamitous Crystal Fire in Northern Colorado until it actually happened.
Masterson will be sharing her story and a wealth of practical tips about preparing for, staying alive and rebuilding after a wildfire in a meeting of the homeowners wildfire series on Aug. 21. Meeting organizer Howard Hallman said Masterson’s account will help complete the story given to locals throughout the series.
“During the homeowner series so much of what we’ve heard has been from qualified experts,” Hallman said. “Linda is going to be able to tell the other side — as somebody who has been through a wildfire and lost her home as a result,” he said. “There’s no better testimonial.”
Masterson has gathered information and resources from across the country, “peppered with personal experience” to help guide homeowners who want to be prepared if disaster strikes.
“It’s always the things you don’t do that come back to haunt you,” Masterson said. “If we were starting over, there are so many more things we would have done. But there is no rewind button. You don’t get any do-overs. Whatever you do ahead of time is all you can do because everything is else is gone.”
Masterson said she and her husband had just finished settling their insurance claims and started to feel like they were piecing their lives together, when she was asked to write a book. The author and researcher was in a unique position to tell her story but said it wasn’t easy reliving the tragedy she had just began to recover from.
“You don’t actually put it behind you,” Masterson said. “It’s like a death when you lose everything you own.”
The author was able to get over her reluctance and look at the situation as a learning experience and a tool to help other people.
“Even if horrible things happen to you, good things come out of it,” Masterson said.
Masterson will answer questions, and have copies of her new book, “Surviving Wildfire: Get Prepared, Stay Alive, Rebuild Your Life” available at the Summit County Forest Health Task Force meeting this month.
— Breena Laughlin
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