Hello there! My name is Laura Lollar. We lost our home (and business) in Colorado’s 2013 Black Forest Wildfire. After the fire, and once it sunk in there was a whole lot of work ahead of me, I searched in vain for a guide book. I’d never been through a wildfire before, but since others had, I figured there must be something out there with step-by-step tips to help recover.
But noooo, there wasn’t. We muddled through the next few years and figured it out along the way. Eventually, when I could see daylight again, I started collecting tips that helped me, my friends, neighbors and relatives who’d also lost their homes in the fire.
That’s when I got the idea to buy WildfireSurvivors.com and build this website — to make the things we learned available to others. I hope the information on this site is helpful for you or people you care about who have lost it all in a wildfire.
OUR WILDFIRE STORY
We lived in a historic log cabin that was built in 1924. It was my dream home – not because it was big and fancy (far from it!) but because I’d always hoped to live in a little log cabin in the woods. We had four great years there before the fire. Here’s what our cabin home looked like:
I took the photo above right before we evacuated on the afternoon of the wildfire. If you look over the top of the roof, you can see the billowing smoke clouds. We evacuated about 4:30 pm and figure our home burned about an hour later.
Here’s a very short video taken by one of the local newspaper reporters, Wayne Laugesen. It shows flames in the background right about where our home (and my neighbor’s homes) had stood.
It took about four days before we learned our home was gone. Two of my neighbors died, 500+ homes burned and over 14,000 acres were destroyed. To date, it was the most costly wildfire in Colorado history.
If you’ve survived a wildfire, you may also have a chimney photo. Here’s ours…
This is what we went back to about nine days after the fire – after it was safe to go back in. If you look closely, you can see two ceramic houses on the fireplace mantle. Not much else survived, but anything ceramic had been fired in the making and therefore more likely to withstand the 2500+ degree temperatures. Here’s a better look…
I use those ceramic houses in my “Wildfires of Change” keynote speech to reinforce how anyone who has suffered through a tragedy can grow stronger and more resilient as a result of it. Both houses are in one piece – only the paint burned off. Here’s a closeup…
It was a big loss for sure. But one of the worst things about losing that old log cabin was the historical importance – it had belonged at one time to one of the first school teachers in the community. She would walk each day to teach at the one room log schoolhouse nearby. Here’s a photo of the inside of the schoolhouse, which still stands…
It’s been well over five years now since the fire and there are LOTS of lessons learned. One of the most important things we learned is, of course, that people and pets are more important than stuff. We were lucky and had a few hours to grab the important things before we evacuated, but there were a few things I wish now I’d had the presence of mind to take – the big box of my kids’ memorabilia, their baby books, the pictures they drew – and my bag of journals from well over 30 years of writing. But we got out with our lives, thank goodness.
I hope you never have to go through a wildfire, but if you do, or if you know someone who has, please point them towards this site.
Warm regards, Laura Lollar, Black Forest, Colorado