In early August, Carolynne Ewing saw a wildfire begin to spread through the Carter Canyon area of Gering.
Her husband, Dave, was in town to mow his mother’s lawn. As she watched the smoke, she decided to call her husband. Soon, she said, she saw the flames rising above the hill near the house. Suddenly it was time to evacuate.
The next day, Carolynne and Dave Ewing returned home.
“We were just a bit down and the man who rents our pasture – we waved at him and he kind of ran into the borrow pit and up. He said, ‘I’m so sorry about your house’ and that’s how we knew she was gone,’ Carolynne said.
Across the road, Dave Ewing’s mother owns a house that was rented.
“There was a tenant (who lived there) and right away he said, ‘You need a place to live. I rented (the house) because it was so beautiful. You need a place. So he moved out,” she said.
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Since moving into the new home, as part of the takeover, the couple have had meetings with representatives from the Nebraska Forestry Service.
“We went to dozens of meetings and a forester explained that the reason they couldn’t save our house was probably because we had too many cedars nearby. He said don’t plant another cedar and keep them away from your house. They don’t retain water, unlike deciduous trees,” she said.
On Saturday, September 10, members of Scottsbluff’s Calvary Lutheran Church and other community members helped clean up around the new home.
Each year, a group of church members chooses a community project to work on, called “Gods Work, Our Hands.”
“For the past two or three years, we’ve done backpack projects, stuffed backpacks, and sent them out. This year we talked about starting over,” said Jack Martin, a church member who helped organize the event. “With the fires, this came up during our Social Ministry Council discussion. I brought up the fact that I knew (a family that was affected by the fire) so we kind of put that as our number one priority. It turned out that we could help them.
Church members were put to work Saturday with various tasks around the property, Martin said. Friends and family members of the Ewings also participated.
“We do a lot of pruning and sawing of trees that have been burned and some that just needed thinning out anyway. They wanted to keep some of them away from the house – in case there might be another fire – so they wouldn’t be a problem,” he said.
Jadie Rother said it felt good to lend a hand with cleaning around the house, including painting, yard work and tree removal.
“We felt it in our hearts to come and help,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. We met lots of new people and saw a beautiful country.
Becky Martin said it was also an enriching experience for her.
“Even if we only do a little, we do something,” she said.
Carolynne described the help from the group, as well as the generosity of others, has been a blessing.
“I’m just overwhelmed with the kindness of everyone in the Valley,” she told the Star-Herald. “The difference everyone is making is just huge. Absolutely huge. I am very, very grateful.
“It would have been a lot harder to clean that up (without the help). Honestly, Dave and I probably wouldn’t have. Our children wanted to come and we would have worked with them, but it will be three hours of miracles.