FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Ashes where homes once stood — that’s all that remains of more than a dozen houses destroyed in the Crystal fire west of Fort Collins. Some homeowners lost everything.

As families try to deal with their huge loss, a community is coming together to give them hope.

The Crystal fire burned nearly 3,000 acres and 13 families lost their homes. When they were first evacuated they sought shelter at Big Thompson Elementary School where students and their families rallied to help the victims.

On Sunday Kelly O’Donnell looked at the remains of what used to be her home. One of the items she found was a crystal necklace.

“I worked for a whole year before I lost it in a campfire at a friend’s house and then she found it 6 months later,” O’Donnell said. “And now I found it again; it’s been through two fires.”
space Community Pulls Together To Help Those Who Lost Homes In Fire

The crystal she can call her own, but the rest of her belongings, even the clothes on her back, belong to strangers.

“Two days after the fire I got to my desk and there was already some bags of stuff there; and I was just overwhelmed,” she said.

Donations started flooding into Big Thompson Elementary School the minute a “call to action” e-mail circulated. People started collecting when they found out many who had lost their homes weren’t insured.

“I just can’t even talk about it, I just don’t have (insurance),” O’Donnell said.

Donators started thinking about the little things homeowners would need, like food, toiletries and clothing. But small things led to larger things.

“I have a lady who has a whole entire house. Her father had passed away, he was a firefighter,” Stephanie Hancock said. “She said, ‘Everything in the house, let them have whatever in the house.'”

Donations will be available until May, but O’Donnell isn’t looking that far ahead. Now, she lives in the moment.

“What do we really need in life? We need friends, we need love, we need food. We do need shelter, but it doesn’t have to be deluxe,” she said.

All the donations have been moved from Big Thompson Elementary to the Wilderness Retreat, which is less than a mile away. After May begins, the remainder of the donations will be sold at a yard sale. All of the proceeds will be given to the fire victims.

Comments (5)
  1. Donna says:

    It is wonderful that Big Thompson Elementary School PTO organized this event. It will help many families with a new start. The community responded wholeheartedly.

  2. druid0621 says:

    Is it really true that few of them had fire insurance? I’m sorry for their loss, but that’s about as smart as not having flood insurance in New Orleans..

    1. Melissa says:

      Sad, but true. Insurance companies don’t like to insure people in the mountains because of the risk of fire….the same way they don’t like to insure people in flood zones due to risk of floods. But hey, we in the mountains don’t have to worry about hurricanes and tornadoes!

  3. Kate Wegrzyn says:

    Will the Wilderness center continue to accept donations? What is the address and hours to drop off goods? Household items will be important once the families are in a new dwelling! It is important to NOT donate outdated computers and non compatible printers etc.

  4. Melissa says:

    I’m not sure of the hours, but I found contact info on the Big Thompson Elementary web page. The place is Wilder-Nest Retreats, 9144 N. Glade Road, Loveland, Colorado 80538 • 970-481-2563 or 970-667-0031

    The web page also had a link to a list of items needed. Here is a link to that page:

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