The High Park fire burned through Northern Colorado for 22 days, destroying 259 homes and displacing thousands of people. For Jerry and Patti Ellmann, losing everything brought a new beginning.
The married couple, both 72, began building their house on Davis Ranch Road in 2006 and have lived there for the past five years. They left their home on June 9 under evacuation notice, with no idea how much they were leaving behind them.
“We just thought we would be back up here in a couple of days,” Patti said. “You know how they evacuate you just to be safe and everything.”
When they were told their house was gone, they set their sights on the future instead of the past.
“God’s given us everything we have, and he can take it away if he so chooses,” Patti said. “So when it was gone, I thought, well, OK, He’s decided there’s a different path that he wants us to go on. I mean, I miss some of my funny little things, but I figure, OK, God, this is a new adventure.”
The Ellmanns returned to the remains of their home on June 29, and with the help of the Samaritan’s Purse organization, began the cleanup process.
“We provide the volunteers, the materials, and in this fire situation, we sift through the debris, reclaiming personal property,” said Tony McNeil, project manager with Samaritan’s Purse. “We come alongside them, pray with them, cry with them, and then give them assistance.”
Although they were able to save important paperwork and their digital photos, the Ellmanns lost their photo albums and 8mm movies of their children in the fire. After Samaritan’s Purse volunteers helped them sift through the rubble, they were able to recover several belongings, including a silver and china set.
Still, the Ellmanns wish so much hadn’t been needlessly lost.
“I was just thinking about all the things that we’ve given away, probably some of them are still being used, benefitting somebody,” Jerry said. “But everything we left here is gone. Nobody is using it. Nobody will ever use it. So what I come away with is that in the future, it’s going to be a lot easier for me to give stuff away.”
The Ellmanns are currently living in a rental home provided to them by their insurance company while they decide if they want to rebuild in the mountains again. As they celebrate their 49th wedding anniversary this month, they see this experience as a return to their past.
“It’s kind of like starting all over again, like when we were first married,” Jerry said.
How you can help
Though the fires are extinguished, the remediation efforts are far from over.
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