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Franktown military family loses lifetime of memories in barn fire

FRANKTOWN, Colo. -- Deborah Johnson heard crackling outside her bedroom window in the heart of Franktown horse country early Wednesday.

"I saw the orange glow thinking that the sun was coming up and realized it wasn't the sun, and when I opened up the blinds, our barn was fully engulfed in flames," she said.

She and her husband Daryl ran outside and watched hopelessly as their barn burned to the ground.

"I think the scariest thing we learned from this was we don't have a plan,” she said.

"We're standing out there with our mouth hanging open,” Daryl Johnson said. “Going 'whoa what can we possibly do now?' You know it was gone.”

As they sifted through the rubble a few days later, they said they wanted others to take away one thing.

"I'd done firefighting in the Navy and training, training, training,” Daryl Johnson said. “But even if we had a plan, do we know how to execute it? If this part of the house is on fire or that's on fire, which door do we go to?”

Both served first in the Navy.  Daryl Johnson then served in the U.S. Army, and did a combined total of four tours of duty with the Navy and Army. His duty included serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I had pictures, I had all my letters from all my deployments ... they were all in there. Every memory that I had from the military is just gone," he said.

He also lost $40,000 worth of tools he collected over 30 years. Dozens were handed down by his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.

Animals nesting in the barn likely started the blaze.

"That's where the fire started because they had nibbled through the wiring," Daryl Johnson said pointing at a corner.

Because the fire melted metals, Daryl Johnson figures it burned around 1,900 degrees, nearly catching their home on fire.

All their chickens and other livestock got out safely. And they're overwhelmed by the support from neighbors.

"It's heartwarming … it's heartwarming, but at the same time, we're embarrassed," Daryl Johnson said. "We do things ourselves.

"The generosity is ... it's overwhelming   "

The Johnsons have insurance but many of the things lost can't be replaced.

The family is not asking for any help and they are reluctant to take it. But relatives have put up a GoFundMe page.