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    Posted June 17, 2013 by
    Black Forest, Colorado
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Wildfires blazing near you

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    Colorado Strong- Residents Give Firefighters Hero's Welcome


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     mediaman captured this street celebration for firefighters in Black Forest, Colorado, on June 16. Residents cheered "Colorado Strong!" and waved celebratory signs to thank the local fire patrol, National Guard and law enforcement for helping to contain the devastating Black Forest Fire.
    - jccarp, CNN iReport producer

    As you head to Black Forest, Colorado you can smell the heavy acrid smoke miles from the area. Each access road is blocked by National Guard or law enforcement officers, limiting access to the natural and personnel devastation of 14,000 acres of scorched earth and at least 500 homes. This is the worst fire disaster in Colorado's history. Still there were rays of inspiration and joy as local residents lined the streets cheering long conveys of firefighters and National Guard troops from across the United States. For the Colorado residents, these are the people who helped save homes, the land, and people.


    The scene was almost reminiscent of the joyous end to a war. Military personnel carriers, fire trucks with flashing lights and sirens blaring, and police vehicles, streamed into Pine Creek High School parking lot after each shift. The school served as a command center as nearly one thousand personnel attempted to put out the intense fire in the Black Forest area.


    Parents, children and hundreds of local residents cheered as each vehicle passed by. Kristin Brawn sat on a truck with her leg in a cast, holding a sign with the words Colorado Strong on it. Her mother said Kirsten and just had surgery six days ago, and the fire personnel helped to evacuate the family, uncertain of the fire's damage to their property.


    Young Levi Kalb stood stoically in firefighting gear waving a small American flag in wonderment of the scene- the image almost iconic of a young boy's dream of being a firefighter someday- the endless work of the fire fighters here.


    More vehicles continued to pour down the road. Bystanders walked up to the fire trucks with outstretched hands, just to touch and thank these returning heroes. Some firefighters gave their fire-soiled shirts to the kids, blowing kisses as they tossed them out the window.


    Another fire vehicle drove by with three fire fighters covered with smoke-stained yellow clothing from the Minnesota Department of Resources, adding to vehicles from all over the region. Truly this was a national response to help Colorado.


    As the seemingly endless line of fire vehicles proceeded towards the school, as American flags waved, and crowds cheered, it was difficult not to feel the emotion around you. Gone was the smell of smoke and the haze in the air. As the sun set in the west, the sun's amber rays illuminated long parked lines of military vehicles and fire vehicles, standing ready for the next shift of personnel heading to the fire area. The scene demonstrated how large and immense this fire has been for almost a week. But for this day, Father's Day 2013, the people of Black Forest were cheering for their adopted heroes, new found friends from across the nation who came in their time of need. That's what makes Colorado Strong.

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