COLORADO SPRINGS – The Waldo Canyon Fire was devastating for many, with life-changing consequences for most. Among the smoke and ash of burnt remains was another family who lost everything including time, hard work, sweat and sacrifice.
Through four generations, those at the Flying W Ranch have entertained hundreds of thousands of visitors since 1953 with chuck wagon dinners, great music and good ol’ fashioned family fun. Their mantra was to preserve the old ways of the west, and in a matter of hours; all that was threatened by a force never imagined.
The Flying W Ranch’s owner and president, Leigh Ann Wolfe said that she was told that a fire line which her father built years ago along the foothills would protect the ranch from any advancing flames. Although, many preconceptions changed when winds of more than 65 miles per hour picked up, along with record high temperatures shifted the direction of the fire from Queen’s Canyon into the Mountain Shadows area.
At that point one of the few firefighters on scene near the ranch was told to stand down. He told Wolfe that in all his years of service he was never told to, “Cut and run.” This is when Wolfe knew, “We’re going to lose the Flying W Ranch.”
In the aftermath of the fire, when the smoke cleared and all that remained were charred remains of what was is when Wolfe and her family returned to the land where the Flying W once stood. She said it took a long time to even begin to put their heads around what happened as they tried to figure out what they wanted to do.
“There was so much that we had to do to get back up on our feet, if we were going to get back up on our feet,” Wolfe said.
In the 10 years since the fire, it’s been hard on the family, but they knew that their legacy was so deep and so wide from all the people who invested in the Flying W with family and friends throughout generations that they had to rebuild. She said it’s been a massive labor of love. Although, Wolfe feels blessed, and wants to make sure others know that she feels for everyone who suffered loss during the Waldo Canyon Fire.
The ranch has come back in a big way and now back open for their second full season.
“The Flying W is flying again. Yes, it is flying again,” as Wolfe proudly rejoiced.
Now, future memories of the many who will continue to come out to enjoy their western experience are no longer in jeopardy.