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'We are the silent victims': Denver7 Gives helps those whose houses were damaged in Marshall Fire

Smoke damage forced many out of homes
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Posted at 6:45 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-03 12:29:17-05

Often forgotten behind those whose houses were destroyed, victims whose homes sustained smoke damage from the Marshall fire face enormous expenses as they too were forced to flee.

Everywhere she looks, Sophia Martin sees potential danger for her family.

"My 4-year-old has asthma," Martin said. "I have a 6-month-old son. He puts everything in his mouth. I'm scared that if I don't make the right moves and don't take the right steps they're going to have cancer down the road."

Martin's townhome is inside the Marshall Fire burn zone, but it's still standing. Her gratitude is forever to the firefighters.

"I don't know how I'm ever going to let them know how grateful we are for what they've done," she said.

But the hurricane-force winds that fueled the Marshall Fire also left everything inside the Martin home coated in debris. Her insurance company deemed it "uninhabitable."

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"It was this overwhelming, like burnt plastic on steroids smell," Martin said. "The things that burned aren't a wildfire fire. It's things like asbestos and lead and car batteries, things that can be really toxic to your health."

For almost two months now, their family of four has been living in a hotel.

"I feel guilty taking help because there are people who lost everything, and I don't want to take help from those people," said Martin. "We are the silent victims. People just think, 'well, your house is still standing. You're fine.' They don't see that we're still living in a hotel. They don't see that we're trying to figure out, what's safe for my family?"

"When we heard about these concerns, we realized there is not a lot of good science to give answers to people," Joost de Gouw said.

Joost de Gouw is studying the impact of smoke damage in the Marshall Fire and said hundreds, if not thousands, of homes were affected.

"We have measurements before, during, and after a home's cleaned, and so what we're working on is also to see how effective the cleaning is," he said.

Martin said remediation will cost more than $50,000, and she has put tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards to cover other expenses. She still does not know how much insurance will cover, but they hope to come back home next week.

Denver7 Gives wanted to lift some of the worries. Thanks to generous donations to our wildfire relief fund, we delivered two air purifiers that had been at the top of Martin's Wish List. Because she was worried about her couch, we also pledged to replace it when they are cleared to move back into the house.

"We're really grateful," said Martin. "I have a lot of hope that we can be OK in this home."

Denver7 features the stories of people who need help and now you can help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.

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