Simply ‘Marr’-velous: Forest Service leader hailed as hero merely doing her job
Jerri Marr awoke on June 23, 2012, expecting a normal day as forest supervisor tending to issues arising on the Pike and San Isabel national forests west of Colorado Springs, Colo., on the Comanche National Grassland, some 250 miles away, and on the Cimarron National Grassland in southwest Kansas.
Little did she realize that in the ensuing days, a fire presumed to be human caused set that day in Waldo Canyon would leave in its path a scar of more than 18,000 acres, cost millions of dollars to fight, prompt the evacuation of 32,000 people, destroy 346 homes and kill two people. The Waldo Canyon fire has since been labeled the largest, most expensive and destructive fire in Colorado’s history.
Marr also didn’t expect to emerge a hero who would receive awards, commendations and praise from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force Academy, National Association of Black Journalists and the City of Colorado Springs, among others. The U.S. Olympic Committee selected her as a 2012 Torch Bearer, two Colorado Springs restaurants named sandwiches in her honor, and more than 3,200 people “liked” a Facebook fan page created about her.
“Now I see what making a difference looks like, so it just inspires me to continue to work even harder,” Marr said. “When our community needed us, we were able to rise up and serve them in a positive way, and I’m honored and humbled and challenged by that as well.”
While keeping an eye on those who fought the fire, Marr knew another concern would be the children in the community. It’s one reason she started a “Smokey Cares” outreach to the kids affected by the fire.
“Kids were weaved throughout those blocks and neighborhoods. They not only lost their homes, they lost their friends, familiarity and a sense of security. All things that are not easily found, kept, or re-created,” she said. “We set up an email address and asked kids to write Smokey because he cared. We had lots of kids write in, and Smokey sent them a care package.”