LOUISVILLE, Colo. — The Marshall Fire burned over 6,000 acres in Boulder County, destroying more than 1,000 homes and businesses. The flames reached the front doors of Ascent Community Church in Louisville and filled the building with smoke and ash, according to those with the church.
Fortunately, the fire did not burn the building that houses the church, but it surrounded the property. The smoke and ash made the building uninhabitable and forced the church to hold their services at the Omni Hotel.
“Churches from all up and down the Front Range have contacted us, saying we know that you're at the epicenter of this, what can we do to help?” said the Lead Pastor of Ascent Community Church, Bill Stephens.
Stephens said they have operated Ascent Community Church out of their current location for around eight years. He said it is designed as a space for the entire community to use.
Stephens said countless community members have reached out to see how they can help them in the wake of the fire. On Saturday, they invited anyone willing to come to help them clean, as long as they wore a mask and gloves.
“What we're trying to decide now is what can we keep? And what do we have to throw away? What can we wipe down and try to save? We're going to bring it all out in storage bins, and then they'll wash it all, wash all the rafters, to make this a safe place," explained Stephens.
Stephens estimated 300 people came during the day to help with their efforts. Many of them were not part of the congregation.
“I'm just glad they're here. I was here Thursday, and there weren't a whole lot of volunteers. I felt kind of lonely, but now it's great to see so many people," said one of the volunteers, Bob Weiss, who said cleaning the church is personal to him because he knows Stephens.
Stephens said his own family lost their home in the Marshall Fire. He said they watched their neighborhood burn on television, while in Washington.
“It's as challenging as anything I've ever gone through," said Stephens. “It's real. And it's what every person is dealing with. We all have our stories. I've checked in with the people that, in our church, that have lost homes, and our neighbors that have lost homes... We're going to walk through this together and we'll each take a step at a time together.”
Stephens said, in his congregation, 17 homes were burned.
Those with Ascent Community Church hope they can return to their building in the next one to two months.