FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The director of the Colorado State Forest Service says the state’s forests are in horrible shape as we approach the one-year anniversaries of the three largest wildfires in state history: Cameron Peak, East Troublesome and Pine Gulch.
Friday marked the one-year anniversary of the single largest wildfire in Colorado history, the Cameron Peak Fire, which burned 208,600 acres and destroyed 469 buildings, including dozens of homes.
State Forest Service director Mike Lester says it typically takes two to three years for wildfire burn scars to fully stabilize.
For those who lost their homes, rebuilding has been a long process.
“It’s taking a while,” said Jae Sheddy.
Sheddy and her wife, Donna Braun, have lived near Masonville for 18 years.
“We moved up here because I had gotten laid off from my job back in 2002,” Sheddy said. “And we couldn’t afford to live in town anymore. We liked living up here so much, we just kind of stayed.”
Sheddy, a Navy veteran and Braun, a retired nurse, have built a good life together. And while mountain living has its benefits, Sheddy and Braun know it also has its dangers.
“It’s probably been about our 4th or 5th evacuation and this one just turned out differently,” Braun said. “It was early Sunday morning and we thought it wasn’t going to happen that way. It was just going to be an evacuation and we’ll go back home.”
“But the wind – it was like 90 miles per hour,” Sheddy said. “And the fire just took it all.”
Unfortunately, Sheddy and Braun couldn’t get homeowner’s insurance.
“It was an older mobile home and as soon as we paid it off – they dropped us like a hot potato,” Sheddy said.
Fortunately, they have found the will to rebuild. With some help from volunteers like Dan Austin, who is with the Larimer County Long-Term Recovery Group, Sheddy and Braun are on their way to having a new home.
“We met for breakfast and it’s just been a wonderful partnership since,” Austin said.
Austin has helped Sheddy and Braun secure thousands in disaster assistance.
“The received a $32,000 grant from that fund,” Austin said. “No repayment whatsoever.”
The couple also got a nice Small Business Administration loan.
“We’re getting a loan with very low interest,” Braun said. “Just over 1%. And we’re getting a modular. We found something in Cheyenne that we really like and that we can pull off, financially.”
Sheddy and Braun are still looking at more than $200,000 out of pocket.
That’s where Denver7’s viewers stepped in with the wildfire victim’s fund, offering $10,000 for an appliance package in their new home.
“I’m speechless,” Sheddy said.
“People have been fantastic,” Braun said. “People we don’t even know. You guys.”
“When you bring tears to people’s eyes, it kind of brings tears to your own eyes, too,” Austin said.
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