LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — Evacuated residents of the Shambhala Mountain Center huddled with friends out of harm’s way as the Cameron Peak Fire grew into the state’s third-largest wildfire the last week of September.
Friday, a small band of them were permitted to view the damage the fire left behind. Many of the “old legacy” staff cabins, established by the founding members of the Bhuddist group, were lost, Executive Director Michael Gayner stated in an online message.
All in all, it could have been worse.
“It’s much better than we were afraid it would be,” he said.
“It was a quick visit because the fire danger is still there. There were about a dozen firefighters still doing work. There’s a couple little places where there is still smoke, so they’ve got some work to do,” he added. “We’re not out of the woods yet, so to speak, but it’s a much more secure situation.”
Unquestionably, the biggest victory was the survival of the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya. Considered by the group one of the best examples of Bhuddist architecture in the nation, the 108-foot temple still stands at the edge of a meadow.
Yards away, the remains of other buildings lie crumpled and defeated by flames.
Construction of the Stupa began in 1988 and continued until Sept. 26th when mandatory evacuations were announced.
“Around the buildings,” Gayner said, “you could see the footprints of the battle, so to speak. The charred grasses often come very, very close to the edge of the buildings. You can see how hard they worked to save our land.”
The Shambhala Mountain Center closed earlier this year due to concerns of the Covid-19 outbreak. The fire doubles the amount of work and money required to re-establish operations, Gayner said.
But among the staff and residents, spirit is not in short supply.
“They just want to get back up on the land and get to work and be in their homes.”
The land itself is showing up for duty. Two-inch shoots of new grass are growing through blackened plots of earth.
“Nature’s already starting to reclaim and rebuild,” Gayner said. “It’s just a perfect metaphor and a perfect physical reality as well.”