Caywood still looking for home of his own |

Caywood still looking for home of his own

Nearly six months after the Coal Seam Fire burned Chris Caywood’s mobile home to the ground, the volunteer firefighter is “holding his ground.” At the same time, he’s still searching for an affordable place to live. Caywood has been living with his sister, Brenda, in Glenwood Springs.”The hard part was losing the cat,” he said about his losses in the fire. “Everything else was inanimate objects and stuff. I still have memories of that, but losing a life, that hurts.”Caywood, 35, had insurance for his mobile home, but much of the money he received from the insurance company went toward paying off the balance of the loan on his home, which he owned for less than three years. “Unfortunately over half of the insurance went to pay off the mortgage on a pile of ashes.”Also, he said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, refused to give him money or assistance. The agency assists people who lost their homes from disasters, but because Caywood had insurance, he said they told him he’s not eligible for a low-interest loan. FEMA public affairs officer Gary Gleason said the low-interest loans are for the uninsured and underinsured. “Federal assistance is to help individuals who don’t have other resources to help with recovery,” Gleason said. “The purpose is to try and give a leg up as they try and rebuild after a disaster.”He also pointed out that if Caywood, or anyone else, feels like they were unfairly denied assistance, they can go through FEMA’s appeal process. “It’s so tough. You go through something like this and that’s hard. Our heart goes out for him and everyone else who had losses as a result of this fire and other fires,” Gleason said.Most people and businesses, however, have shown extreme generosity and kindness for Caywood, something for which he is thankful this Thanksgiving. Many items needed for everyday life were donated to Caywood. “Luckily most of that has been donated to me,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the businesses have been absolutely amazing.”Included in those businesses, Caywood said, are all of the local banks, the Association of Realtors and the city of Glenwood Springs. Caywood’s odyssey through the Coal Seam Fire was certainly unique. As a volunteer firefighter, Caywood was on the first fire truck called to South Canyon when the fire broke out the afternoon of June 8. He and his fellow firefighters fought the blaze until it grew too big and pushed them out. They next went to Canyon Creek in case the fire was pushed west. During the time he was helping to protect the property and lives of others, Caywood’s own home, located at 50589 Highway 6&24, was completely destroyed by the fire. “All that was left was the metal shell of the storage shed,” he said. Once they heard about his situation, members from fire departments across the area raised money for Caywood. “I would really like to send out a big thank you to all the local fire departments who collected money for me.” The money was collected by putting rubber firefighters’ boots in stores, restaurants and other public places and asking people to donate money to help Caywood in his time of need. The firefighters in Aspen went one step further for Caywood. “Aspen raised money and included a letter – the letter touched me more,” he said. “They collected a substantial amount for me and it just about made me cry what was in that letter.”The letter was written by Joseph Fredericks, chaplain of the Aspen Volunteer Fire Department. He wrote:”I can speak for my fellow Aspen Fire Department volunteers who attended that evening and into the days that followed that your personal actions, loyal dedication and strong work ethic on the fire line was impressive and meaningful for us all. It gave us all a deep admiration for you because of what you personally lost as a result of this fire. “You never complained outwardly of your personal losses, but kept a service attitude for your community and tirelessly worked that fire line.”Caywood said: “That gives a full explanation of why I volunteer. Being on both sides of the coin, a firefighter and a victim, it gives it a whole new meaning.”Now that the flames are gone and the holidays are upon us, Caywood is still searching for a place to start anew. “I’m trying to establish any kind of funding I can to get another place,” he said. He works as a hauler for RAC Transport, making deliveries everywhere from El Jebel to Missouri Heights and south to Redstone and Marble.Caywood said he’d consider living in the Mitchell Creek area again, but he’d “have to take a look around and make an assessment at that time.”Some residents – even those who didn’t get burned out – decided to leave the area “due to the threat,” Caywood said. Moving downvalley to New Castle or Rifle is not an option for Caywood. He grew up in Glenwood Springs. And he works in Basalt and doesn’t want his daily commute to get any longer.”I spend enough time on the road as it is. I drive a truck for a living,” he said. “I’ve thought of Carbondale, but unfortunately prices are even worse up there,” he said.Caywood eventually received money for his home, but he was a little frustrated by the length of time it took for the claims adjuster to get to him. “As for insurance-wise, the local insurance company and local agent were fantastic, but the claims adjuster, he drug his feet.” Although he received the money in late July, Caywood is still searching for a home to call his own. “I was kind of hoping to have a new house by now so you guys could get my picture,” he said. After all the trauma of losing a pet and a home, then dealing with insurance companies and enduring a still-ongoing search for a new place to live, Caywood remains upbeat and determined. If the pressure of living with his family becomes too great, Caywood said, many people have offered him a place to stay. “I could stay at each place for a night and not stay in the same place for a month,” he said. In all, Caywood seems to be taking the adversity thrown at him in stride. “I think I’m holding my ground,” he said. “One thing that really helped me hold my ground is all the people in the department and people in the community – the way they stood behind me.”

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