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Learning to live with the loss

Donna Daniels

Three weeks after the Coal Seam Fire raced through the west edge of Glenwood Springs, those whose homes were destroyed are learning to live with the loss.For Janice and Jim George, Janice’s son Troy Gordon and his fiance Michel Field, who were neighbors on Highway 6&24 in West Glenwood, the hardest part of the disaster is watching people sift through the remains of their lives in the ashes of their burned out homes.Almost every day, they have to run someone off their property, Gordon said.”The hardest thing we’ve had to deal with is people walking on our property sifting through our foundation,” Gordon said. They’ve even came with metal detectors.”They just don’t realize it’s someone’s home, even though it’s no longer there,” he said.There is an upside, however.”The nicest thing is a lot of people have come by and offered help or called,” Gordon said.Both families had good insurance coverage on their homes. Their insurance will cover most of their living expenses and help to rebuild their homes. The Georges are now renting a home and Gordon and Field, who will marry in September, are living with Michel’s mother in Silt. Both families plan to rebuild.”I still have a house payment to make,” Janice George said.But neither family will get a brand new house free and clear. “The essence behind insurance is to get you back to where you were before,” Gordon said. For example, insurance will only pay for as much house as they had before the fire.Both families lost things that were not covered by insurance. Janice and Jim lost two all-terrain vehicles. Gordon lost an antique motorcycle. Thursday, Troy and Michel replaced their wedding and engagement rings that were lost in the fire.They did find Troy’s wedding band, but it was warped out of shape by the heat. Although they sifted through the ashes of the house, they could not find Michel’s engagement ring.”It wasn’t for lack of trying,” Gordon said.Now faced with rebuilding, the couples worry about the prospect of flooding and mud slides in the heavily burned over Mitchell Creek.”My big question is if we get a flood will FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) step in,” Gordon said.Janice and Troy have a long history in Glenwood Springs. Janice’s family, the Amichauxs, came to town in 1906. In the ’70s, her brother opened Ami’s Acres, which is now a recreational vehicle park. Despite two close calls, the campground was unscorched by either the Coal Seam or the Storm King fires.The fire has taken an emotional toll.”It’s kind of overwhelming. You try to handle everything, and try to get back to your life,” Gordon said.He and Michel still talk about the evacuation and the loss of all their possessions.”If we only had time to pack. If we’d only had 15 minutes,” Michel said.For Jourdon and Jennifer Ingelhart, who lived not far from the Georges in the Storm King Trailer Park, getting their lives back to some kind of normalcy has been a struggle.Since the fire burned their home, they have been living in a camper trailer beside the Crystal River Baptist Church in Carbondale.”We had home insurance, but we didn’t have replacement insurance,” Jennifer Ingelhart said. Their insurance will pay replacement value up to $20,000 on the contents of their home.”We’ve had people tell us there’s no guarantee we’ll get that much,” she said.They are also responsible for cleaning up the remains of their trailer home. The couple went to the Red Cross, which said it couldn’t help but referred them to FEMA, who said the same thing.”FEMA told us if we weren’t insured we probably could get a grant,” she said. “They said to use our insurance settlement, but we need to save all we can for a new home.”Dave and Jeannie Russell, who lived in the same area as the Ingelharts, the Georges, Gordon and Field, and also lost their home, are not anxious to rebuild.”We were evacuated in 1994” during the Storm King Fire, Dave Russell said. “After this (the Coal Seam) we’ll try to get a motorhome.”That way they can move around some and evaluate where they want to live next, he said.Also natives of Glenwood Springs, the couple had many friends to turn to for help. And plenty offered.”One thing we found out, we have a bunch of friends,” he said.As with the other families, the loss of their house and its contents has been hard to deal with.”It’s definitely kind of weird when you lose all your worldly possessions. I though it would get easier, but as time goes on it gets a little more difficult,” he said. “The hardest part for me, I had some antique tools my grandfather gave me. I wanted to give them to my grandson.”They were lost in the fire. In fact, the fire was so hot an aluminum ladder he had was reduced to “a puddle,” he said.But with the help of their friends and family, they are slowly getting back on their feet.”The generosity has been incredible,” Russell said. Their buddies in a local four-wheeling club set up an account at a local bank to raise money for the couple. Jeannie’s parents even came from out of town with toothbrushes, hair brushes and hair dryers.Despite their terrifying experience, and the loss of almost all they own, the four families are moving on, rebuilding their lives, and looking to the future.


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