After more than two weeks of evacuation during the High Park Fire, the six members of the Redstone Canyon Quilters were allowed to return to their homes west of Fort Collins. We all were extremely thankful to find that our homes had survived. Much credit has to go to the heroic efforts of the volunteer firefighters of Poudre Fire Authority Station 11, who stayed on the line in Redstone Canyon, fighting the fire for as much as 36 hours until the Type-1 Federal Firefighters (Hot Shots) arrived to relieve them. After that, the volunteers remained on call and almost daily some went into the canyon to fight hot spots, help with back burns, or to feed or evacuate animals that had been left behind.

By Bonnie Harr, Redstone Canyon

PFA Station 11 firefighters who received quilts from the Redstone Canyon Quilters include (left to right) Ron Anthony, Phil Kessler, Pete Taylor, Tom Harr, Jerry Ellinghuysen, Joanna Ellinghuysen, Glen Liston.  Not pictured:  Pete Wells, Ray Snyder. Photo courtesy Bonnie Harr

At one point, when the fire was burning down the west side of the canyon, it became apparent that three mini-donkeys would have to be evacuated. When one of the firefighters, Glen Liston, said he had been the President of Future Farmers of America in high school, he was given the job of “donkey whisperer.” He coaxed the donkeys down the road and into the horse trailer. At the evacuees’ meeting that afternoon PFA Chief DeMint got up and said, “Well, I can honestly tell the people in Redstone Canyon that the firefighters have just saved your asses!”

DeMint’s statement turned out to be the inspiration for a way to thank the firefighters for all they had done for us. The Redstone Canyon Quilters designed a wall hanging with pictures and words embroidered on it saying: “Thanks for Saving Our… Houses, Barns, Horses, Cows, Dogs, Cats, Chickens, Fish, …and Our Asses!”

But once we were back in our homes, most of us were overwhelmed by cleaning out spoiled food from refrigerators and freezers, and just generally getting our lives back on track. We decided to ask for some help with the quilting project.

We made a call to a quilting friend in New Hampshire, Jeannie Weller. Jeannie’s son, Jay, lives in Redstone Canyon. Thankfully, Jeannie and six other members of the Souhegan Valley Quilters Guild took on the task of making all the picture blocks. Many hours were spent making the 72 blocks for 8 wallhangings. For example, the 7-inch dog block had 75 pieces and each one took about 6 hours to sew. All of the quilters involved also send a huge “thank you” to two professional quilters, Linda Hibbert of Loveland who let the team use her dog, fish and horse patterns, and specially designed a horse just for the project, and Australian Margaret Rolfe who allowed the use of her animal patterns

When Jeannie came from New Hampshire to visit Jay at the end of August, she brought the finished quilt centers with her. The Redstone Canyon Quilters added borders, embroidery, batting, backing, and quilting. The Station 11 firefighters were presented with their thank-you quilts on Oct. 13 at the fire station. We hope this is our last quilting project that begins with an evacuation!

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