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In July, 2007, the North Neola fire destroyed 12 homes and burned 43,500 acres of the Ashley National Forest and surrounding area. Five hundred people were evacuated. Three men died.
One year later, grass and wildflowers returned to the fire-blackened landscape.
Now, two years after the fire, new aspen trees in the burned forests are 3 feet high. Fire kills the mature aspens but the stress stimulates the colony's roots to put out new shoots, which grow rapidly without the shade of larger trees.
Where the forest did not burn, the undergrowth looks completely different -- grass and assorted underbrush, but no new aspen.
Through fire and death comes new life. In the ashes lie seeds of spring growth.