HUERFANO COUNTY, Colo. — The most destructive Colorado wildfire this season has left behind a changed landscape and changed lives forever.
Homes burned down to the foundation and rows of burned trees are constant reminders of the devastating Spring Fire. At last check, the fire that started on June 27 had burned about 108,000 acres and is 91 percent contained. More than 200 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Denver7 went back to the area where the fire swept through to talk with families who are just beginning a long journey.
There's a hole in the ground where Larry Morgan's home once stood. He already scraped away all the debris as his family tries to figure out the next steps.
"I guess next is just to figure out what we’re going to build here, how we’re going to do it," Morgan said. "Just start that process and try to get hopefully something going before winter sets in.”
When he saw his home after the fire, it was unrecognizable. A pile of tin was left behind from roofing material that caved in and that was pretty much it.
"To think about all the hard work we put in over the years to make it what it was," Morgan said.
He gave a tour of his property, walking up to the site of his family cemetery. The granite stones survived the fire but the intense heat caused some cracks.
"We’re grateful that this survived as much as it did," Morgan said.
The grave markers will be polished and the fence around the cemetery rebuilt. Morgan's family has owned the property for 40 years and he's determined to stay.
"We’ll make it home again, sure," he said.
One family, two tragedies
Not too far from Morgan's home is a piece of land that another family refers to as "paradise." Richard Godfrey and his wife Amber bought the property with hopes of retiring there one day.
"We worked for forever. I’m 62 —I thought I might be able to retire in five years and it looks like maybe it's going to be 10 now 'cause we have to rebuild everything," Godfrey said.
The home that he built by hand was paid for and like many in the area, they did not have insurance. A friend started a GoFundMe page to help them with the daunting task of rebuilding their lives.
Tragedy struck again just as the Godfreys were getting back into a routine. The couple was living out of an Airstream camper that they managed to save before the fire.
Richard was out of town for work when he got a call from his wife, saying the camper was on fire and filled with smoke. She barely made it out.
"My wife was inside," Godfrey said. "It was the middle of the night. It was one of those things where the dog wakes up the sleeping person."
They grabbed their belongings before the evacuation, but everything that was left behind was lost when the camper went up in flames.
"Well there’s two extremes: It seems like you lost almost everything or everything or you were spared completely," he said. "There’s people rejoicing because their houses were saved; there’s other people that are devastated because everything they have is gone."