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West Glenwood family’s faith sees them through loss of their home

Donna Daniels

On Day 5 of the Coal Seam Fire, the Padillas – Frances, Adam and Katherine – attired in white Tyvek protective suits, masks and rubber gloves, sorted through the charred remains of their house on Mitchell Creek Road. Katherine bent down and picked up a small plate. She rubbed off the grime and showed it, wordlessly, to her mother, Frances.The Padillas lost their house, located where Mitchell Creek Road intersects with Highway 6&24, Saturday night soon after the fire swept down South Canyon and jumped over Interstate 70 and the Colorado River.They lost everything.Wednesday they sifted through what remains of their lives, a heap of blackened objects covered in gray ashes.They are staying with friends in Silt and already have a house lined up to move into, Frances said.And they are trying to salvage what they can out of the ruin of their house with good humor.”I don’t think I have a tear left,” Frances said. “At 2:30 (Saturday), I said, `Oh, wow, there’s a huge fire,’ and by 6:30 we were homeless.”Frances, an administrative assistant with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, is convinced that a change of habit saved their lives.On Saturday, they went to the 5 p.m. mass at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Glenwood Springs instead of waiting to attend the 9 a.m. service on Sunday.”Normally my husband would be watching TV and Katherine and I would have been out shopping,” Frances said.If Adam had been in the basement in front of TV, “he wouldn’t have heard anything,” and probably would have been trapped, she said.During mass, Adam received a call on his pager that the fire was threatening their home, Frances said. A maintenance supervisor for the Colorado Department of Transportation, Padilla was getting a direct call from the CDOT dispatcher.So they headed straight home from church.”It happened in a matter of minutes. We were at the stoplight (on 6&24) and we saw a black cloud. I said (the fire) is on our side of the highway,” she said.When they got home, she said, “the firemen were going door to door, saying `Get out now.’ We tried to grab some pictures. Dad got the dogs under each arm and got out the door,” Frances said. “As we were driving up the street, the flames were under the tires of the car.”Katherine is also convinced the family was spared because they each had religious objects with them when they left the house earlier Saturday.”I had a crucifix I got when my aunt’s house burned down in February,” she said. “We all had something religious on us when we got into the car.”

The next day, when Frances returned to the burned-out shell of her own house, she found something she never thought she’d see again: a ceramic sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Child.A firefighter found the statue in the rubble and set it out on the driveway in front of the house.”If I could have had something (out of the fire) it would be that,” she said. The figurine had belonged to her mother, who recently died unexpectedly. It was something of a miracle the special figurine survived.”It fell into the basement and there’s not a chip on it,” she said.Now Katherine keeps it safe, wrapped in a towel, the only momento she has of her dearly loved grandmother.Frances credits the family’s strong faith and the support of many friends for getting them through this tragic time.”There are no words to explain their generosity,” she said. “The only way we can keep going is because of their kindness.”Co-workers at the river district and CDOT have found the family a place to live and offered food, clothes and household necessities, she said.”I didn’t realize how many people I knew and how many friends I have,” Frances said.


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