COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – More homes and businesses were lost in the Marshall Fire than any other in recent history in Colorado. Yet the state is no stranger to destructive fires. That includes the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs, where around 340 homes burned in the summer of 2012.
“You don’t expect a wildfire to come into a city, yet it can happen and it looks like it keeps happening over and over again,” said Mike Petkash, whose home was destroyed.
Petkash is the chief photographer at KKTV News in Colorado Springs. He was working the day when the Waldo Canyon Fire quickly tore through his neighborhood and he captured the devastation, even as his home burned to the ground.
“Every single house on my block burned up,” he said.
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So he understands what those who lost everything in the Marshall Fire are going through.
“The first month is the worst,” he told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
From mounting questions to piles of paperwork, Petkash knows the process is overwhelming. His advice – use every resource available and stay in touch with your insurance company.
“Track them down, get them on the phone,” he said. “Usually, they’re pretty good and they’re willing to work with you.”
Petkash said dealing with the aftermath of a fire is like having another full-time job. Much like what’s ahead for Louisville and Superior, he faced some dark days after his neighborhood was all but wiped out. That’s when, he says, it is important to lean on each other.
“It was a realization that like, ‘Everything is gone, but I still have friends and people helping me out,’” he said, fighting back tears. “You’ll get through it with the help of people.”
For Petkash, many of those people were his neighbors who, like him, chose to rebuild in their Mountain Shadows neighborhood. Almost everyone came back, he said, and it’s possible for the same to happen when the ashes are cleared from the Marshall Fire.
“If they are going to build, and they decide they want to stay, they need to be finding a builder like right now,” he said.
Petkash knows that is much harder today than it was 10 years ago, between the tough housing market and the impacts from the pandemic. Yet just because the fire destroyed your home, it doesn’t have to destroy your hope.
“You just got to stay positive” Petkash said. “Like, ‘Alright, I’m going to get through this.’”