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2010 fire victim on shared experience with Marshall fire families: ‘Reality is sinking in’

Andi O’Conor_burned home from Four Mile Canyon Fire
Posted at 11:18 AM, Jan 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 13:18:51-05

BOULDER, Colo. — Andi O’Conor did not lose her home in the Marshall Fire. But it's an experience she's familiar with.

She lost two homes to fires in her lifetime.

“It’s a very small club you never want to belong to,” she told Denver7.

O’Conor lost her childhood home to a fire, then her adult home burned down in the Four Mile Canyon Fire in 2010. She started a blog to share her experiences in dealing with loss due to a wildfire.

“It's a journey of my own experience from the first moment I learned that my house burned down all the way through the process of rebuilding and recovery,” she said.

Thousands of people in Louisville and Superior are now going through that process after the Marshall Fire. Now that weeks have passed, O’Conor said things may be changing for the victims.

“The initial shock is sort of wearing off a couple of weeks in or a couple months in, and the reality of it is sinking in,” she said.

O’Conor shared her first-hand experience with Denver7 as a way to help others understand what fire victims are going through.

“Initially, you have this disaster brain that kicks in and it tells you it's OK. It's gonna be alright. It's a great coping mechanism. When that starts to wear off and the reality of what you've lost sinks in, that can be a whole new level of difficulty for people,” she said. “So in a sense, the experience can get bigger as time goes on. When you start having to list and write down everything you've lost, then it starts to sink in.”

Something else that sinks in, according to O’Conor, is the understanding of just how long of a process it will be to bounce back.

“It’s not like the commercials. The insurance company doesn’t drive up to your house and hand you a check and say ‘Go for it.’ No. It's a painstaking and complicated process that takes one to two years,” she said.

O’Conor said she’s already heard from several people who lost their homes last month. She’s making herself, her blog, and her experience available as a helping hand for anyone who needs it.

“This takes a long time. So hang on with people. Know that this process goes on and on. And if you can be there for people in the long haul, that's really good,” she said.