Its been a Month

Since everything changed here in my part of Boulder County. Ignited somehow (the cause is still under investigation)and propelled by 100 mph winds, the Marshall Fire roared to life.

This morning, I started writing and then the Sunday paper arrived, with many stories of the fire, evacuation, heroic acts to save neighbors, friends, animals, homes. There’s a special section of the paper with enormous ads of support from local businesses, communities, and agencies. I’m exhausted and in tears. So much intensity, so many losses. There is no way to sugar-coat this, its a big deal.

The stats: The fire began around 11 am on Thursday, Dec 30, 2021. Over the next 18 hours, 6,026 acres were burned in unincorporated Boulder County and the towns of Louisville and Superior. Within those acres, a total of 1,084 residential structures and 7 businesses were destroyed. An additional 149 residential structures and 30 businesses sustained significant damage. The estimated value of homes destroyed is $513,212,589. Commercial damage is yet to be determined. Dollarwise, it’s the largest loss in Colorado history. Not included in the numbers are the massive numbers of homes needing smoke mitigation, ducts cleaned, insulation replaced, the vehicles lost, and lives permanently altered.

Saturday was gorgeous, relatively warm and sunny, and foot traffic was high on the walking paths as many of us were out enjoying the day. I took my first walk on one of the routes that used to be “routine”, heading past the recreation center and fire department towards Harper Lake. Charred remains of homes companioned me all the way up the hill. I noticed a gathering of vehicles in one burned area. As I passed by, there was a truck labeled Samaritan’s Purse and several individuals in Tyvek suits, goggles and masks. Trained volunteers were sifting through the ashes to assist those whose homes were destroyed. Looking for salvageable items, talismans, tokens of their history. Continuing on, I walked on Davidson Mesa, passing the closed dog park with its burned and broken fences, to a western overlook. With snow cover, that view appeared normal. I know there are destroyed homes in the area, but they weren’t obvious. The mountains stood, their profile a constant in my life. Turning back, I crossed the mesa and walked back home, again passing the charred remains of so many homes.

Devastation. Rebuilding. Community. Support. Perspective.

We are all in it for the long haul. The non-stats: people without homes, people with homes, pets, land, businesses, nature. All of us are traumatized, grieving, reconsidering how we live. What matters now? How do I/we go forward? Its challenging to sustain momentum despite the stop/start nature of grief. Obstacles, some anticipated, and many not, will appear. The temporary anesthesia and energy of shock and adrenaline is wearing off, and many of us are moodier, and the initial sprint of emergency is being recalibrated to the ultra marathon of recovery and regrowth.

One of the small losses of the fire and evacuation for me has been indoor plants. I don’t have many, but they haven’t done well. I suspect being without heat for several days is the main cause. An african violet at my office in old town Louisville didn’t make it, and the peace lily at my house is struggling. This morning, it looked particularly awful:

following some water, its a bit better:

With some water and a little time, this plant is looking better. It still shows damage, and is going to lose some leaves, and recovery appears more likely.

Like us, this plant is changed. And most of us, like the plant, will benefit from periods of rest as well as good supportive care. We are scarred, we may lose some leaves, and we may yet recover. It won’t be tomorrow, nor the day after, but healing does occur. The challenge for me is allowing the ups and downs of energy, moods, possibilities. Holding patience and compassion for myself and everyone else along this journey that we find ourselves on, even as we are quite sure it wasn’t what we wanted. Here we are.

Once again, my mantra of little bit by little bit applies, and I wish peace and healing to all of us.

5 thoughts on “Its been a Month

  1. One of the most inspiring stories from “my” fire involved roses. It was a couple months after the fire, January? and we’d had some rain. I was getting my hair done (yeah, I used to do that) and the woman in the chair next to mine was talking to the girl who was cutting her hair. It was in Alpine, CA, which had seen a lot of devastation, many homes destroyed, crazy. “Are you going to rebuild or?” asked the beautician.

    “We weren’t going to. We were just going to sell the land and find somewhere in San Diego. But I went out there and saw my roses were all coming up from the roots. We’re going to rebuild.”

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  2. Beautiful…We think of you both (and the fur baby) so often. The beautiful flowers you brought us are still looking lovely, and hanging on. Your community is so changed, in so many ways. But the kindness and love shown by all of Boulder County, and Colorado is so heartening. I love the wonderful stories of people helping people and animals. I just had dinner with R and V last night, and they had so many positive stories to share. It will take baby steps, and remember, your friends are all here for you! ❤

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  3. I think the healing of survivors of such natural disasters is sometimes worse than for those who lost everything. It has to be difficult when everything is there but in a changed state — perhaps more so than if everything is gone and you have to start over from the beginning!

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