Last year, the Calf Canyon and Hermits Peak wildfire tore across part of Northern New Mexico — burning forests and destroying people’s homes.
“Every family in our school district was evacuated from their home at some point. Some of those families were evacuated for up to a month,” says Tracy Alcón, principal of Mora/Holman Elementary School.
She says the danger did not end after the threat of the fire was gone.
The region flooded repeatedly because the burned and barren landscape could not absorb much rain. Some students’ homes were damaged and their families uprooted again.
Alcón says after so much turmoil, even the hint of disaster became triggering for some kids: “Anytime they smell smoke, even a fire drill was scary,” she says.
To help the kids heal, teachers began taking them to natural areas, including places that had burned.
They’ve gone hiking and fishing, and they learned how the ecosystem regrows after a wildfire.
“Now they’re able to come back and say, ‘Well, we saw where it burned, but you should see the new grass coming up,’ or ‘You should see the new leaves that are growing,’” Alcón says. “They can truly see the effects of what happened but also know that things are going to move forward and we’re going to be OK.”
Reporting credit: Ethan Freedman / ChavoBart Digital Media, Molly Matthews Multedo