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August 06, 2008 2:16 pm

People feeling the force of fire

Written by Tribune Staff

Two days ago, I wrote a piece expounding the benefits of forest fires — the Gunbarrel Fire, in particular.
The positives of the fire, in an area with 50-80 percent beetle killed trees, are indisputable.
The health of the land depends on fire — to cleanse and promote new growth in weakened areas.
It was just a matter of time, anyway. The North Fork has been a veritable tinderbox for years.
But as the fire swallows up acre after acre, things have turned personal for many.
Late Sunday, Sweetwater Lodge was consumed. My grandparents owned the lodge years ago — much of our family lore is intertwined with Sweetwater. So even though I hadn't spent much time there, I felt a pang of sadness at the news.
By Tuesday evening, the fire raging on the North Fork had grown to nearly 33,000 acres. E-mails arrived saying the fire had moved into the Libby Creek drainage and was moving toward Mormon Creek.
Mormon Creek is home to the Bonner family cabin — a structure the family dedicated many summers to building some 50 years ago.
It's a place I've come to love over the last several years.
Firefighters on Wednesday began installing sprinklers around the building to protect it should the fire advance down Mormon Creek.
So far, the cabin is safe, but the anxiety will hang over us, much like the smoke shrouding the Basin, until it's out of danger.
I know I'm not alone. More people feel the power and destruction of the fire each day as it encroaches on civilization.
The change from natural to threatening came fast. For many of us, it's now personal.