GRANBY, Colo. (CBS)– A temperature inversion Friday was an enormous help to firefighters worried about more homes being lost in the vicious East Troublesome Fire. A firefighting source told us 300-400 structures are lost in the area south-southwest of Grand Lake, between Highways 125 and 34. There are more losses north of the core of Grand Lake as well, but with the Grand County sheriff unable to enter many areas with active fire and dangerous trees, there was no way to begin to count.

(credit: CBS)

“We live basically behind the golf course in Grand Lake and right above Winding River Ranch,” said Schelly Olson about her dream home. It was a large log structure, sited on some of the most beautiful property around.

“We sold our assets in the city and made the leap and moved to the mountains for our kids to grow up in this wonderful mountain community of Grand Lake and it was the most wonderful place and the most wonderful life,” she said.

But now it’s gone. She shared pictures of the home in ashes.

Schelly had taken a few days break to get out of town because she’s been working the Williams Fork Fire. She is assistant chief of Grand Fire Protection and has devoted her life to helping prevent disaster, teaching people how to mitigate and be fire safe. She heads a local organization to help. But only her husband was home when the fire raced through like none other in known Colorado fire history.

“It sounds like a freight train coming at you. It is loud, it is midnight even if it’s daytime,” she said. He got out with little time, but safely with their dog.

Larry Cooper and his wife had a second home in Grand Lake in Sun Valley Ranch. Just about everything around their home is gone. They’ve owned it since the ’80s. It too was a log home.

“Incredibly, we just finished remodeling the whole house. It was gorgeous, we were thrilled with it.”

Also built into it were the memories. They loved the snowmobiling and the wintertime at first.

“Ultimately we fell in love with the summers up there, the moose and the elk, nature and wildlife and flowers. Just a gorgeous opportunity to have our kids up there and have our kids bring their friends up there.”

He was aware of how beetle kill and the lack of rain put them in danger, but the loss of the home still hurt.

“We knew the possibility was always there. We never expected this kind of a firestorm to destroy so much so fast.”

Schelly Olson described a mix of emotions over their loss.

“It’s really like the death of a lifetime,” she said from a Westminster hotel room where she and her husband have set up house. “You know it really is something that we’re grieving and you know we’re going through those stages in my neighborhood and like all the other neighborhoods and the folks that have lost.”

She said she felt guilt at being away, but when we asked, could name nothing more she could have done from a fire that stunned the experienced firefighters around her and a town that has lost so much.

“We’re first responders, we’re Type A, we want to do everything for everybody and I have to realize that we just can’t.”

She did have words for the people in the town she and her husband love so much.

“We can’t have the mindset that it can’t happen to us because it can. That’s my message, that Grand County is strong, and Grand County is beautiful and wonderful and will come back.”

 

 

 

 

Alan Gionet

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