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Colorado nurse captures haunting photo of the Marshall Fire
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A Colorado nurse captures a haunting image of the Marshall Fire from her hospital's window
A view of the Marshall Fire in Boulder County from Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Credit: Wendy Cardona

LAFAYETTE, Colo. — As fires burned on the horizon, Wendy Cardona took out her phone.

With a couple swipes and the press of her finger, Cardona, an operating room nurse at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette, captured what is sure to become one of the most iconic photos of the Marshall Fire.

In the foreground, a fellow nurse’s face is illuminated by the glow of her cell phone. Three other nurses look out of the hospital through a square window. Outside, ambulances are transporting patients to safety. In the distance, the horizon is on fire.

The picture efficiently captures the dual tragedies Colorado is experiencing: entire neighborhoods devastated by wildfires while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.

"Immediately, it was a sum up of what 2021 was," Cardona told Rocky Mountain PBS. "Just a complete mess."

Colorado Voices

Nurse's photo shows the horror of the Marshall Fire

"I was taken aback by what I was seeing through that window. Between EMS lining up to transport critically ill patients […] seeing fire trucks drive up and down 287 trying to control these flames," Cardona said. "Watching these flames approach the hospital […] I was standing there feeling completely helpless."

Cardona was working December 30 when the Marshall Fire ignited. On an especially arid, windy day, the fire ripped through 6,000 acres of Boulder County at a bone-chilling pace, destroying close to 1,000 residences and damaging hundreds more. Thousands of Coloradans are suddenly without a place to call home.

"I will never forget December 30, 2021. It was a day that wreaked a lot of havoc, caused a lot of fear, and it was the day before a snowstorm that came a little too late," she said.

To date, Coloradans have raised tens of millions of dollars for Marshall Fire victims. The fund established by the Community Foundation Boulder County has already collected more than $12 million and the Colorado Gives Day fundraiser has received nearly $7 million.

[Related: How you can help—or get help—after the Marshall Fire]

Cardona has started a fundraiser for her community. On a GoFundMe fundraiser she set up, Cardona said she wants to bring little bits of joy back to the victims of the fire. "I'm a helper," she said. "I love to help."

“I want this campaign to offer the opportunity to those who have lost so much to be able to replace an item that would bring them joy, whether it be a yoga mat, favorite running shoes, headphones, a favorite anything that would bring a moment of joy as it once did before this tragedy,” she wrote. “Joy is what has helped me through times where I felt I couldn't keep going.  I see this as a moment where we as a community can help lift others up who have lost so much, many indeed all, and bring small measures of joy to them as [a] method of healing.”

You can donate to her fundraiser here. She will be documenting how the money is distributed on this Instagram page.


Kyle Cooke is the digital media manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at kylecooke@rmpbs.org.

Brian Willie is the content production manager at Rocky Mountain PBS. You can reach him at brianwillie@rmpbs.org.

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