GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — On the western banks of Lake Granby, Paul Hedgecock and his son, Kiffer, sifted through what was the old bait shop at the Highland Marina.
Hedgecock has owned the Highland Marina and surrounding property for 25 years and it’s been in his family even longer.
“My parents bought it in 1984,” Hedgecock said. “And my wife and I bought it in 1995.”
The marina, several boats and nearly 50 trailers and RVs were all wiped out by the East Troublesome Fire.
“All these people that had their little trailers here,” Hedgecock said, pointing to the edge of the lake. “They loved coming here.”
Hedgecock’s father lived in the back of the bait shop for years. He died a couple weeks ago, just before the fire started.
“I’m glad he didn’t have to see this,” Hedgecock said. “It’s really sad. It’s my whole life. Been here since I was 16 years old.”
The East Troublesome Fire exploded in growth a week and a half ago, growing from 20,000 acres to 128,000 acres overnight, indiscriminately picking off more than 300 homes in Grand County and jumping Highway 34 right at Hedgecock’s place.
“I kind of feel like a target,” Hedgecock said. “It’s the only place it crossed the street.”
Others, like Ted Rockwell, came back to find his property unscathed.
“My boat survived,” Rockwell said. “It was stored about 100 yards from here. I was here last Wednesday, at the boat ramp and the whole thing exploded.”
Rockwell worked to notify some friends and then, like hundreds of others, had no choice but get out.
“The smoke got thicker and thicker and I could see the fire on the next hill leaping tree to tree,” Rockwell said. “It was unbelievable. I’ve never imagined anything like that in my life.”
On a tour of the damage Sunday, the head of fire operations praised the efforts of firefighters who worked tirelessly before the snow last weekend finally helped to calm the blaze.
“Their own homes were at risk and unfortunately, I’ve heard of a lots of loss. My understanding — it’s 300-plus (homes lost),” said Brett Thomas, field operations section chief for the East Troublesome Fire. “Significant structure loss.”
Back at the marina, there is hope.
“We will rebuild,” Hedgecock said. “I don’t know if it’s even sunk in, but we’re doing alright. We got a house to rent next door and we can come over and start cleaning up the mess.”
Hedgecock said they have insurance, and now, like dozens of homeowners, he’s waiting on those adjusters to come up and survey the damage before starting to clean up.