DENVER (CBS4) – When the Waldo Canyon Fire exploded June 26, it roared into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood and consumed a total of 346 homes.
One of those belonged to the grandparents of Denver Broncos defensive lineman Ben Garland.
When he sat down to talk with Vic Lombardi on Xfinity Monday Live this week, Garland’s shoes were still covered with ash from the home.
“It’s hard to take them off or even clean them,” Garland told Lombardi. “Just being close to the house, having a part, even taking a shower to get off the ash was tough, kind of wanted to keep it on just stay close to that home.”
The home of Sharon and Hal Garland was a clearly a focal point for their family, large enough to host the whole group for Christmas.
“The house meant a lot to me, a lot to the whole family. I spent a lot of time there. I mean that’s the house that got me through the Academy, that’s the house that I lived in for about a year.”
In addition to being a Bronco, Garland is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and is a member of the Air National Guard.
When the Waldo Canyon Fire started on June 23, the Garlands were aware of the potential danger but didn’t think it would be so close to home.
“We heard that about Friday and Saturday, we heard pre-evaucation, evacuation might happen,” Garland recalled. “It wasn’t really real. We thought it would be more of an inconvenience, have to move the stuff out then move it back in a couple of days. It became all too real on Tuesday.”
Garland started tweeting out pictures of the home and then posted video on Twitter when he visited.
“It’s one of those things that I wanted to show it on Twitter because I really wanted to thank the firefighters because although this happened to my grandparents home, my uncle’s house, my sister’s house were just down the street and they saved those homes. We’re so thankful to the firefighters and the guardsmen who are out there risking their lives and helping us.”
“That’s what we really want to thank the firefighters for. They stood at our grandparents house and fought and saved the rest of the neighborhood.”
But that wasn’t the first way Garland thanked firefighters and guardsmen. On June 28, he, along with several of his teammates and the Broncos cheerleaders, headed north to the High Park Fire. At the time, he didn’t know the Waldo Canyon Fire had claimed his grandparents’ home.
First the group met families who lost their homes in that wildfire. He said it was amazing to see how resilient the community was and how it really came together to help the victims.
Then they visited firefighters.
“We also got to go up to the camp, base site and meet the firefighters there on the lines fighting, just covered in ash. Absolutely true American heroes,” he said.
“We just got the opportunity to meet those true heroes, those firefighters, those guardsmen who were protecting those homes and doing everything they can.”
Sometime later than day, he got the word about his grandparents’ home.
Over the weekend, he went to Colorado Springs to look through the rubble of the home. Things were still almost too hot to touch.
Among the items the Garland family found were his sabers from the Air Force Academy.
“That represents the Academy as in a whole. It’s that strength, that character that you need to get through the Academy and I gave them to my grandparents after I graduated just to thank them because honestly, I couldn’t have gotten through the Academy without them.”
Normally graduates cannot replace those sabers, but Garland says he’ll make a special appeal to the graduate Association to make an exception for his grandparents.
As for the grandparents, they are staying with Garland’s aunt and uncle down the road and dealing with insurance questions. Just like hundreds of other Colorado residents along the Front Range who have lost homes during this devastating wildfire season.
– Written by Raetta Holdman
Watch more of the video with Ben Garland in the Xfinity Monday Live section.
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Wildfire Resources section.
– Read recent Wildfire stories.
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