Tribute to Heroes of Caldor
Created to express collective, lasting gratitude to organizations and people who stepped forward to fight the fire, provide support, shelter fire victims, and care for their animals.
THE MISSION: Install a permanent, monumental tribute to the organizations and people who valiantly fought the 2021 Caldor Fire to save lives, homes, businesses, land, and livelihoods. In August and September 2021, the Caldor fire burned 221,775 acres over 347 square miles. Almost 800 structures were lost. The fire consumed nearly 2/3 of the Grizzly Flats community. Scores of firefighting teams on land and in the air fought the fire around the clock for more than two months. Law enforcement, nonprofits, businesses, and volunteers stepped up to help as 53,000 people were evacuated from their homes.
Heartfelt handmade signs appeared to thank the heroes who finally tamed the fire. Grateful families returned home. The bronze Tribute to the Heroes of the Caldor Fire is a permanent acknowledgment of the skills, bravery, and commitment it took to manage and defeat the powerful wildfire.
THE VISION: Creating and installing the bronze Tribute to the Heroes of the Caldor Fire is a public acknowledgment of the people and resources it took to defeat the Caldor Fire.
Nonprofits, community groups, businesses, and individuals stepped forward to selflessly respond.
This permanent monument will call people to remember and honor the strength of community. It will become a landmark destination for local families and visitors. A point of pride for the entire region.
DESCRIPTION: Heroes of the Caldor Fire will be made of lasting bronze to withstand time, weather, and public contact. The sculpture will be installed on a concrete base decorated with local rock at a prominent public site.
The design depicts firefighting teams such as county, state, and federal firefighters; Indigenous fire managers; air support, law enforcement, and wildlife impacted by the Caldor Fire. A separate installation will name major donors to the project, from $250 and more. Donations of lesser amounts are urged and welcome.
Bronze is ideal for outdoor conditions and endures for centuries. Upkeep in bronze is simple, requiring no special skills or materials. In most circumstances, the metal lasts for centuries without degradation. A base will be constructed to securely support the sculpture and provide a good setting for visitor photographs.
The Heroes of Caldor bronze tribute began with conversations about elements and themes, and then became sketches. Materials such as a special oil-based clay that never dries (as does water-based clay) and a set of sturdy and smooth boards to be used as the "canvas" were purchased.
I then sculpted images on the boards using my hands and specialized metal tools. The process of creating distinct scenes that depict important aspects of the event began in November 2021 and continues today. Panels pictured here are still being worked on for details and textures.
Once completed, polyurethane molds are made. I've been lucky to have help from a local master mold maker, Don DeMenno. When cured and hardened, we'll pour melted wax into the negative mold. The hardened wax is pulled from the mold and then worked to a finish.
The wax panels are then delivered to a bronze foundry, where another multi-step process makes them ready for the bronze pour. Learn more HERE.
After being cast in metal the work goes to expert finishers. At this point, I'll again check the work before it is in the hands of a patineur, an ancient trade that takes years to master. I will monitor this process as well before final approval. Donations to the Caldor Tribute will be used to pay for this costly foundry process.
In-Progress sculptures include animals threatened by wildfires, community volunteers, air support, and law enforcement. Panels displayed here are being revised throughout the process.
Keeping it Local
To the greatest extent possible, artisans, tradespeople, and materials will be from El Dorado County. The monument will be installed in a central, accessible, and public location adjacent to a historic restaurant on Pony Express Trail. The casting work will be done at a noted California bronze foundry.