A year ago today (Tuesday), July 15 — and it was Monday last year — just before 1:45 p.m., I heard a smoke report in Mountain Center on the scanner in my office. We all were on deadline but that’s when events occur, right? When the timing is bad?

Who knew that by the end of the week our town would be nearly emptied of its residents running for their lives? Who knew that one small flame would cause that much destruction and bring heartache to people whose homes were in the Mountain Fire’s path?

I am grateful still today that no one lost their life; that our firefighters remained safe throughout this disaster that they eventually managed to contain. All told, more than 27,500 acres burned at a battling cost of nearly $26 million.

So, while we celebrate our return this week and attend the Idyllwild Fire celebration this Sunday, let’s not forget those hundreds of fire leaders and fighters from not only the other government fire stations on the Hill, but from stations who sent heroes from other parts of the state and country to risk their lives to keep our mountain towns safe.

By the time most residents returned, most of these people had returned to their homes. We barely got the chance to thank them. Yet we have the occasional opportunity to do so. The fire stations are not in Idyllwild so they aren’t as visible to us as our local fire department, but whenever you see a Forest Service or Cal Fire/Riverside County firefighter on the street, say, “Thank you.” You never know when they will be dispatched to someone else’s hometown to help save it, too.

Let’s also never forget the personnel who provided law enforcement while those of us who evacuated waited anxiously to hear if not only our homes did not burn but they were not burgled or vandalized. And the Mountain Disaster Preparedness for its service in helping people evacuate and for welcoming us home. It is a time to be grateful and celebrate again.

Becky Clark, Editor