Evacuees learn news of their homes in High Park Fire
No addresses of homes lost in the High Park Fire have been released. But families are finding the devastating news on their own.
About 500 people turned out for a meeting late Tuesday afternoon at the Larimer County Fairgrounds, all with questions about the fire and the homes in its path. But, some already knew the solemn answer.
“We built it with our two hands, the two of us. So it’s more than just our house. It’s our life’s creativity. It’s very difficult,” says Leslie Wharton, who, along with her husband, lost their dream home on David Ranch Rd.
“There’s nothing there. We had 40 acres. It’s black twigs,” says Mark Wharton.
He says they were hopeful their home would survive up until Sunday.They use solar power, so when the power went out they were still able to call their home phone.
“The answering machine would pick up. So ,we were doing that from the time we left on Saturday to about 5 p.m. on Sunday. The answering machine stopped picking up. So, we guessed it was gone,” says Mark.
They were right. Firefighter friends confirm their fears for their home of 19 years, gone in a single afternoon.
“We’ve been told most of the houses are gone. And the place looks like a nuclear bomb went off. There’s nothing standing,” he says.
Besides his home, he also lost his work tools. He’s a contractor, and he says three homes he was going to do work on also burned to the ground.
Jim Key and his wife also lost their dream home in Stratton Park.
“It was just our dream home. We put our sweat and tears into and it’s gone. It’s just gone,” says Key.
They also lost his wife’s priceless artwork.
“My wife’s great grandfather was a famous painter. He painted (Guglielmo) Marconi (the inventor of radio), all these people. We saved a lot of paintings. But some got burned up,” he says.
Evacuees all come together at the meetings, most are sick with worry, like Sue Fuchs.
She says, so far, her home of 25 years in Lory State Park is still standing–at least on firefighter maps.
She worries about losing her home and a lifetime of belongings.
“Some of it’s irreplaceable. You can’t just replace some things. But, at least, we got out with our lives. It’s better than Linda did,” she says referring to Linda Steadman, 62, the fire’s single fatality.
Steadman died when fire burned her cabin at 9123 Old Flowers Rd. This was after failed attempts to reach her by phone. Two emergency calls went to her voice mail.
With the number of damaged structures at more than 100, Wharton fears the worst.
“Unfortunately, I think its going to be hundreds and hundreds of homes. I have a feeling this thing could be way beyond anything we’ve seen in Colorado,” he says.
“We’re mainly here to support people that don’t know. We know. Our roller coaster ride is over. We’re safe, we’re good. There’s a lot of people in there that don’t know yet,” says Key, his voice cracking.
Though, each evacuee remembers they could have lost much more.
“Everything we own is gone,” says Mark. “Except for each other and our friends,” says Leslie. “That’s right,” says Mark.