2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

I had never written “fire” before

Published: June 11, 2014, 4:55 pm, by interns

by Emily Donovan
Gazette Local News Reporter Intern, Summer 2014

It was like staring up a Salvador Dalí painting.

The fire that shut down Martin Drake Power Plant—a four-alarm fire with more than 100 firefighter responders on May 5—was hot. Really hot. So hot the a steel ladder above the operating floor that I stared up on a media tour Tuesday afternoon was warped into a cartoonish wave.

The fire was so hot it made this previously straight ladder look like a cartoon.

That’s hot.

Until my first week at The Gazette, I had never written the word “fire” in an article before.

The closest I had come was dust. Once at my campus newspaper, we heard there was a fire truck and an ambulance at the engineering building. We called a breaking news reporter during class for nothing. Dust had caused a false alarm.

False alarms were all I had until coming to the high fire risk of Colorado Springs.

“Fire” wasn’t a problem word growing up in a Kansas suburb. “Fire” meant camping, marshmallows, and a chimney dysfunctional since before I can remember.

Here, “fire” means trouble.

“Fire” means wildfire. It means neighbors crying and hugging. Family heirlooms burned, lives lost, and property damaged. Prevention and mitigation. Danger, heat, smoke, resources, and politics.

Here, “fire” means news.

Emily Donovan is an undergraduate student at the University of Kansas from Kansas City, Kan. Follow her on Twitter @emdons.