Fifteen Months Later

The Marshall Fire hit Dec 30, 2021. Fifteen months ago. In a matter of hours, fueled by extreme winds and dryness, more than 1000 homes and businesses were destroyed, as well as acres of open space burned. My town, Louisville, lost 550 homes; whole neighborhoods are gone.  

I was fortunate. The destroyed homes begin 2 blocks from my home and I didn’t have major smoke damage. However, I have now discovered burned parts of my roof. My neighbor was having some work done on her gutters and the roofers noticed that a ridge vent shingle panel had blown off of my roof.  When they went up to replace the shingles, they also noticed holes burned into the shingles.  I knew the fire was close, and I hadn’t realized how very close to losing my home I had come. Given the burned paper found in my yard and shown in the featured photo, I guess I’m not so surprised, although humbled once again.

So after more than a year, progress is clear. Many homes are in the rebuilding process, and once barren burned areas are now hives of construction activity. This is the graphic off of the city’s rebuilding website:

As you can see, half of the structures lost are now permitted for rebuilding, more are under review, and two of homes lost have been rebuilt and reoccupied. This is a lengthy process, and it will be some time before the process is complete. My friend Nancy and I walked today and part of our walk was through a recovering area. We noticed the progress, many homes now with building above their new foundations. A former colleague of Nancy’s lost his home and they are hoping to have their final inspection today, possibly becoming the third family moved home in town. Others are still waiting their turn to rebuild. Another friend of mind lost her townhome. When I saw her in January, they were hoping that rebuilding would start by March. I saw surveyors there last week, otherwise, its bare dirt. And other bare lots still have for sale signs. For whatever reason, their owners are not rebuilding. Sometimes its cost, sometimes it’s the effort, and sometimes people have decided that they don’t want to return to the site of so much loss.

And today is a red flag (high fire risk) day. It’s warm, about 60, and the wind has picked up this afternoon and is gusting. Like many in town, I’m much more edgy about the wind than I once was. Rebuilding continues, homes go up, the landscape looks more “normal” and it is all changed, we are all changed having lived through this wildfire event that prior to its occurrence had seemed unfathomable. Like many others on this changing planet of ours, we are changed, things aren’t and may never be the same.

Hopefully we will keep learning and healing. Below are two photos taken in the weeks after the fire, followed by two recent photos showing all the rebuilding.

Burned and rubble filled hillsides are transforming.

8 thoughts on “Fifteen Months Later

  1. It’s good to see progress in rebuilding. Unfortunately, it is a lengthy process, and will result in a changed neighborhood, no matter how much people say they will rebuild exactly what they had before the fire. Although I’ve never been that close to a bad brushfire, I’m always aware of the surrounding area if there is any breeze at all. Recent winds have been accompanied by deluges of rain — it won’t be long before all that nice green grass isn’t so nice and green, and at that point I will be more than just aware of the wind, but rather alert to the breezes!


    1. Its a strong emotional and trauma infused response, isn’t it. The wind is howling and we have a red flag warning today, which is unsettling. And our friends Roy and Virginia got their house keys this morning The third family to move back in after the fire.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fires are just horrible! I’m so sorry your neighborhood suffered so much, and hope the rebuilding goes well. It will take a long time to get over the emotional trauma, never mind all the physical changes. Sending healing vibes your way…..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Once changed, nothing is ever exactly the same and usually, not even close. I keep trying to get used to the “now,” but secretly, I’m still yearning for “then.” I just want to feel like I still “fit” in this world.


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