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'The urgency is absolute': Superior Rising promises new focus on speedy recovery after Marshall Fire

Founder: Government cannot hold up rebuilding
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Posted at 9:14 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-19 00:29:47-05

SUPERIOR, Colo. — The night of the Marshall Fire, John Heckman witnessed greatness.

“I came up behind and I saw the firefighters put out my house, put the fire out,” Heckman said. “There’s nothing more humbling.”

His home survived. His neighbor’s home did not.

“Her house is a total loss,” Heckman said. “My house, the siding and the roof are burned and we can’t live there right now, but we have a place to stay.”

The recovery has been agonizingly slow for hundreds.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” Heckman said. “For good reason."

“Our ultimate goal is getting people back in their homes,” said Superior Rising co-founder Neal Shah, who is also a town trustee. “Ensuring people stay a part of this community — the urgency is absolute.”

Superior Rising has officially filed for nonprofit status and Shah says the group’s main mission, at this point, is a determination to speed up the recovery.

“We need a group of people who is not the government because the government is not going to be the only solution here,” Shah said.

Superior Rising is modeling itself after Colorado Springs Together, which Denver7 featured this week.

“If you don’t get going right away, people get discouraged and they don’t come back,” said Steve Bach, the former mayor of Colorado Springs from 2011-2015.

Colorado Springs Together managed to get new homes fully rebuilt just five months after the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, according to the group

“I look at Colorado Springs and their timeline for removing debris after 15 days,” Shah said. “We’re Day 45 and we’ve only issued three permits to homeowners to remove their own debris. That’s unacceptable.”

Shah says the focus is debris removal and closing insurance gaps right now, and eventually fire-hardening homes with ignition resistant materials, to include moving away from wood fences.

“Superior has a lot of open space,” he said. “We also have a lot of wood fencing, which for 30 years we never really gave a second thought to.”

What Superior is promising not to do is tie things up with a lengthy debate over green rebuilding codes like its neighbor to the northeast.

“We basically made the decision that we are not going to increase the costs for anyone who had to rebuild their homes,” Shah said. “Government cannot be the reason why someone is not able to rebuild. If someone chooses to not rebuild, that’s definitely their own decision, but it cannot be because I had to wait so long for this – or so long for that – from the government.”

Heckman agrees. He and Shah believe the vision of Superior Rising must be to work quickly.

“There is a lot of great organization that’s going on,” Heckman said. “We’ve got to drive efficiency.”

“If we move slowly, people will lose hope and they may choose to buy a house somewhere else,” Shah said. “We cannot take too long to decide what needs to happen and when. We need to make decisions.”