By Alan Gionet

SUPERIOR, Colo. (CBS4) – Heavy machinery tore away at concrete while other excavators piled up metal in the Sagamore neighborhood of Superior. The homes were destroyed in the Marshall Fire in December 2021.

“I’m impressed with the speed that they’re moving,” said Ricardo Miranda, as he and his wife Melissa drove through their levelled neighborhood for a look at progress. “I think it’s pretty well organized the way they’re running down the street and just cleaning up.”

(credit: CBS)

His endorsement was no complete however. He was wondering how to get word through to crews to ensure they removed caissons that had supported his deck as well as the driveway and front porch concrete.

“I still haven’t gotten a phone call yet. So I don’t know if it’s just because they haven’t gotten to my home yet. Or if it’s lack of communication.”

On one corner, Ainsley Nuhn stood looking over her property.

“I didn’t even know they were going to be here today. I just was driving through the back way, and I saw them in my house this morning,” she said.

While she’s wanted the site cleared to move on, it was another emotional moment in four months that have been full of them.

“It’s the finality. Of 15 years of living in a home that we had a family and our won was born here,” she shared. “It was destroyed but it still was a container in a way. And so it’s been bittersweet seeing it be swept away.”

The number of crews doubled this week explained Boulder County’s director of Public Works Jeff Maxwell.

“The first week was really kind of striking that delicate balance and I think we’ve done that. And now we’re up to 20 crews. Next week we’ll be up to 30.”

That will be the total number operating for the duration of the public site clearing.

“We don’t want to overwhelm the transportation network,” said Maxwell. “We also have to be cognizant of those people doing this privately outside of this program and make sure that we’re not interfering with their contractors.”

(credit: CBS)

The metal and concrete will go to recyclers. Most of the rest of the material taken from the homesites will go to landfills. The majority is going to Foothills Landfill in Golden. There are “a lot of inspectors” at the sites ensuring procedures are followed. Air is also being sampled during the work.

They are learning already how to make things work better to hopefully complete the work of the public site clearing effort in four months.

“We’ll get more efficient. That is what the contractors assure us they can get it done in that amount of time.”

There will also be days when work will grind to a halt. High winds last week stopped progress.

“Winds could definitely delay us. Weather could delay us. Yeah there’s all things that could come up but we’re pretty optimistic that four months is a realistic time frame.”

Ricardo Miranda got hold of someone to talk to on the debris removal hotline and shared with them his wishes for his property. He said he would check back at the site Tuesday if work had started to ensure the message about what was to do was passed on.

Ainsley said one of the site monitors named Heather was kind enough to reach out with compassion.

“She was like, can I give you a hug and that sort of just got me.” There was a time when Ainsley considered not rebuilding, but that’s changed. “I’m talking to builders and architects. I don’t know if I’m as far ahead as other people right now because there was a question of whether or not to sell the lot, but it seems to make the most sense to rebuild.”

She’s been boosted by the way the neighborhood has come together to support each other and to make the process go smoothly.

“It’s been really neat to see the community come together,” she said. “I want my garden back. I always had lots of flowers for the neighbors and they came in in the summer.”

As sites are cleared, crews will put down hydro mulch and if building will come sooner, will leave a hole where the foundations are removed and fence them said Maxwell.

If re-building is further out, they will level the sites to prevent danger. Utilities will have to be established again. They are turned off on the sites.

“We have utility companies coming in and they’re going to have to simultaneously start the process of reinstalling those lines as part of the rebuilding process.”

All in a coordinated dance to bring back neighborhoods that look nothing like they once did. Ainsley shared a photo of her son on the roof of her home before the fire.

He looked west to the mountains over the green trees and neat houses. It was a sight she’d like back.

“It’s a little bit of a roller coaster. It depends on the day. We’re tired of dealing with it some days and other days we’re mourning it.”

Alan Gionet