On June 23, 2012, a forest fire started to burn near the Waldo Canyon hiking area northwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado. It soon became the most destructive wildfire in Colorado state history.
By the time it was contained, which cost an estimated $16 million, the Waldo Canyon Fire had burned 18,247 acres, killed two people, destroyed nearly 350 homes and caused more than $110 million in damages.
The destruction shook the community and sparked an outpouring of support from people around the state, with various organizations raising money for victims in the affected areas.
In August 2012, Polar Bottle teamed with the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Local 5 to launch reGrowCO, an initiative to raise money to support statewide reforestation efforts.
“We are a Colorado company through and through and when something like this happens it hits close to home,” said Polar Bottle President Judy Amabile of the Waldo Canyon Fire. “So, when we were approached about getting involved we jumped at the opportunity.”
Through sales from a line of custom Made in the USA reGrow Colorado Insulated Sport water bottles, Polar Bottle has donated more than $2,500 to support the effort. For every reGrowCO Limited Edition bottle sold, Polar Bottle donates $5.00 to reGrowCO to benefit both the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Foundation and the Colorado State Forest Service.
Specifically, funds will be used to pay for seedling trees to be planted in burned areas on state and private land. The overall goal of the benefit is to plant one seedling in wildfire-affected areas for every one of the 1,600 firefighters who battled the Waldo Canyon Fire.
“In the aftermath of destructive wildfires like the Waldo Canyon Fire, reforesting burned land is a priority in order to help protect water supplies, restore wildlife habitat and reduce flooding and erosion,” said Ryan Lockwood, public and media relations coordinator for the Colorado State Forest Service. “This fund is intended to help provide a long-term solution to replanting critical areas burned by Colorado wildfires.”
According to Lockwood, the seedlings will be planted over multiple seasons, with primary focus on first restoring the areas most critical to water protection.
“We have a goal to eventually receive donations to plant at least one million seedlings over the next decade in critical areas burned by wildfires,” Lockwood said of the project.
In just a few short months the reGrow Colorado initiative has received thousands in donations that have helped established a base for Colorado Springs firefighters and the Forest Service to begin projects to replant affected areas. There is still work to be done, however, and every dollar donated makes a difference.
“This is not only a one-time effort to address the wildfires of 2012, but also an effort to lay the foundation to replant trees after future wildfires,” Lockwood said. “Whenever we face large, destructive wildfires in the future, we intend to continue utilizing this fund to help with replanting efforts that speed up forest recovery.”