By Conor McCue

SUPERIOR, Colo. (CBS4) – More than a week after the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes, some victims are taking parts of recovery into their own hands, despite warnings from county officials.  

Last week, Boulder County Public Health warned that toxic, cancer-causing substances in ashes can make recovering belongings dangerous. Despite such notices, some people, like Sean Tanner, searched for valuables Monday.  

 “There’s not a sense of color to anything other than darkness,” Tanner said. 

(credit: CBS)

Shovelful by shovelful, Tanner, along with friends Mike Dempsey and Jay Richwine, went through what little was left of his home in the Sagamore neighborhood of Superior. The group wore respirators for their safety and used sifters donated to them at the Disaster Assistance Center in Lafayette.  

“There’s a lot of memories that were lost in this fire,” Tanner said. “I think if anyone can find just a little glimpse of the past, I think it just brings hope for your future.” 

When flames raced toward his neighborhood, Tanner chose to help friends rather than grab any belongings. He first went to Richwine’s home next-door and warned him of what was happening, then went across town to Dempsey’s home and helped him save pieces of his art collection.  

More than a week later, both men joined Tanner, hoping to pay back the favor.  

“Anything I can do to help him,” Dempsey said. “I’ll sift through this rubble for 12 hours until it’s dark.” 

Before Monday, Tanner had only found a small, blown glass bear given to the family when his wife, Ginger, was battling stage 2 breast cancer years ago.  

(credit: CBS)

“It’s kind of like a little taste of strength,” he said.  

The main things he continues to search for are his wife’s wedding rings, which she was not wearing when the fire broke out. While the group found small pieces of a melted down metal Monday, they were later determined to be something else.  

“We’re all just crossing our fingers with a little bit of hope,” Tanner said.  

For Tanner, this search isn’t for objects, but instead connections to the past. It’s that  

“It is a good strong sense of closure to just go through this last bit of hope and be able to walk away with the next steps in front of us,” Tanner said.  

On Sunday, the Louisville Police Department announced residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the fire are now eligible to sign up for a free sifting service offered by two vetted organizations, Southern Baptist and the Samaritan’s Purse. To sign up, you can visit the Disaster Assistance Center at 1755 S. Public Road, Lafayette. 

Conor McCue