BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Sunday marks one year since the Cal-Wood Fire broke out in Boulder County, ultimately burning more than 10,000 acres and destroying more than 20 homes.
One of those homes belonged to the Walshes, who say the year has felt more like a lifetime.
“For me, it just feels like it’s just been forever,” Courtney Walsh said.
Courtney and her husband Todd were on Pearl Street celebrating her upcoming birthday when they realized what was happening.
“We got a text with a picture of smoke billowing out of North Boulder,” she said. “And we basically said, ‘Wow, this is really scary, we need to go home.'”
After Cal-Wood Fire destroys home, the insurance battle begins
The family had just minutes to pack up belongings before the evacuation order was issued.
“Eventually we sort of saw a live feed photo from the National Weather Service that showed our roof on fire,” she said. “So, without any sort of official announcement from authorities, we knew.”
A year later, the rubble and debris have been cleared from their home off Foothills Ranch Drive, but the future of the property remains in limbo.
The Walshes said they’ve spent the year battling with their insurance agency over how much money they’ll receive to rebuild, and so far, have only received about half of their policy.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve learned is that insurance companies are going to be your friend until it’s not financially feasible for them to be your friend,” Todd said.
To make matters worse, they say affording another home in Boulder right now is difficult, and rebuilding costs are too high.
“Building during COVID, with the supply chain and lack of lumber and lack of labor, is just really difficult to think about building,” Courtney said.
Message to others: ‘Be prepared’
With more Coloradans living in wildfire-prone neighborhoods than ever before, the Walshes say it’s important to be prepared.
They recommend putting together a list of items you’d take in an evacuation before it ever happens, and knowing exactly where those items are kept.
“Just be prepared as best you can,” Todd said. “It’s easy to be complacent when you say, ‘Oh, I’ve done most of what I need to do, and I’m busy.'”
They also recommend talking with your insurance agent to see if you are underinsured or not and doing extra defensive mitigation around your home.
“There will be more fires, unfortunately that’s the nature of the world right now, and we just need to be cognizant of that.”