GRAND LAKE, Colo. (CBS4) – Most homeowners in Grand County have been allowed to return following the East Troublesome Fire, but with more than 300 houses lost, many are returning to rubble.
“There’s not a structure standing on the place,” said Travis Busse, owner of the Winding River Ranch.
Busse lost all 29 structures on the 240 acre property, which included not only his home, but his business. The property was home to an iconic wedding venue in Grand Lake, started by his grandmother in 1963. Busse has been sharing photos of the damage since he’s been allowed back but says they hardly do it justice.
“You need to see it in person just to see the devastation. How bad it really was,” he said.
On Thursday he invited CBS4 to see it firsthand.
“This was a duplex cabin, side by side, we just got done remodeling,” Busse said pointing to a foundation. “That chimney is where the kitchen was.”
A few random items somehow survived, like a stroller he kept for ranch guests.
“I don’t know where that came from or how it made it,” he chuckled.
The biggest surprise to Busse was seeing how the fire burned around the area where wedding ceremonies were held.
“I think I’m still supposed to do weddings, because all that survived of the weddings was the benches and the two wagon wheels that look like wedding rings.”
Busse said the ranch had plenty of defensible space and he had hoped that at least his arena would survive, which is made entirely of steel.
“I put everything in that arena the night before or the day before thinking it was going to be safe and that was the worst place I probably could’ve put stuff,” he said. “It had to be an oven in there.”
While he is trying not to dwell on how the fire could have been avoided, or slowed, it’s hard.
“I think we need to mitigate our fuel supply in the forest better. I think we need to open up more logging so this doesn’t happen like this again,” he continued, “If they had bigger fire breaks maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I don’t know. You know, this is the fastest wildfire they say that they’ve ever seen move through an area.”
On Thursday, Busse was focused on moving forward. He planned to spend time clearing as much debris as he could, before snow moved in.
“We’ll get there. We’ve got to rebuild and we will.”
He said next year he will likely start with a foundation for a new wedding venue “…and then a house, and then go from there.”
“Build up in the next few years. Hopefully in two years, three at the longest, we’ll be doing weddings again,” he said.