GRAND LAKE, Colo. (CBS4) – While many who lost homes to the East Troublesome Fire fight with insurance companies and struggle to rebuild, the community has come together to help as many owners as possible. One family says without that outreach, they wouldn’t be where they are today.
“We can’t believe how far we’ve come in a year,” said Barbara King.
King’s cabin had been in her family for generations when it was destroyed by the East Troublesome fire. The landscape around the property is a sign of the sheer force of what’s now the fastest moving wildfire in U.S. history.
“The winds were blowing over 120 miles and hour when the fire came through here,” said Stephan King, Barbara’s husband. “Because of the wind and the heat, it heated the sap up and it sorta froze those trees in that position.”
Barbara’s son Todd Rusch, now living in Florida with his family, watched the progress of the fire from afar.
“Mom had called me and said, ‘It’s getting smoky, and I am putting towels underneath the door,’ and I said, ‘I think it’s time to go,’” said Todd.
When Todd found out the cabin was gone, he knew what he had to do. It just so happens he used to build log homes in Steamboat for a living.
“Had to help mom out. I helped my grandfather so much with this house over the years that I felt that my skillset was fine-tuned and ready to go, and I knew she couldn’t rebuild if I wasn’t able to help her,” he said.
“He just said, ‘Mom don’t worry. You’re going to have another log house,’” Barbara told CBS4.
For nearly a year, Todd has been living on his parent’s property, building a new cabin, one log at a time, but he hasn’t been working alone.
“I’ve been meeting people I’ve never seen before. People are helping in ways you’d never believe. I’ve got my friend Jimmy, John, Keith, my wife’s let me do all this. I can’t thank enough people. It’s been and amazing experience,” he said.
Neighbors have stepped up to help provide the King’s with temporary shelter and the local nonprofit has helped with some financing.
“I have to mention the Grand Foundation,” said Stephan, getting choked up. “They’ve helped us a lot.”
Barbara said tearfully, “I hate for us to turn into a puddle, but if it wasn’t for the help of so many people, friends, people we don’t even know, you’d have to scrape Steve and I off the ground.”
Barbara and Steve wanted to make sure that despite all of the hardships, everyone was chipping in to help the “burn-outs.”
“That’s what we call ourselves,” she said. “There are others who are stuck because of their insurance companies, and they’re having to sue their insurance companies and that could take another two to three years. These people are just stuck emotionally, physically, and mentally.”
It hasn’t been an easy road but thanks to the community coming together, they are pushing forward.
“They’re just angels,” she said.
For more information on how you can help others still facing impacts from the Troublesome Fire, visit the Grand Foundation.