Islander living in Colorado says it will take time for state to recover from wildfires

·2 min read
Snow covers the burned remains of homes in Louisville, Colo.  (Jack Dempsey/The Associated Press - image credit)
Snow covers the burned remains of homes in Louisville, Colo. (Jack Dempsey/The Associated Press - image credit)

An Islander living in Colorado says it's going to take a long time to rebuild following wildfires that ravaged parts of the state around New Year's Eve.

Heidi Rankin has been living in Colorado for seven years. She recently moved to Boulder to be closer to her grandchildren.

She said her house was about four miles away from one of the fire sites that blazed through towns between Denver and Boulder amid heavy winds. It caused the destruction of nearly 1,000 homes and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

Rankin said she was returning from a trip to the mountains when the fires started Thursday, and that she could see all the smoke and ashes billowing up over red skies.

"Everybody was starting to be routed off of main roads," she said. "So we headed for home and the winds were already blowing gusty.... They were over 100 miles an hour. And so the fires, which they believe were started from some downed power lines, the wind just took them across the grass very, very quickly."

She said the smoke was "already pretty thick" as they approached Boulder. "And then it just got worse so quickly."

Submitted by Heidi Rankin
Submitted by Heidi Rankin

Rankin said her family had things packed and were ready if they had to evacuate. It wasn't until the next morning that things started to calm down and she knew they were safe.

Though officials say the fires are no longer a threat, some areas of the state were still under evacuation orders as of Sunday.

David Zalubowski/The Associated Press
David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

Rankin said she knows a fair number of people who were forced to leave their homes and still haven't been able to return.

"People don't even know if their houses are standing," she said. "The way the fire moved, there could be three houses burned literally to the ground and then one would be standing almost unscathed. So the wind did some very, very bizarre things.

"My stepdaughter's very dear friends lost their house. They had a family and a couple of pets and they are all safe. But they lost their house, and lots of others evacuated."

Rankin said a snowstorm Saturday helped cool down some of the hotspots. But Colorado residents are finding it hard to assess the damage now that they have to slog through over 20 centimetres of snow.

David Zalubowski/The Associated Press
David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

Rankin said that while efforts are underway to get people back to their homes as fast as possible, it will be a "very slow process" before the community can recover.

She said the fires just cap off what's been an awful year for Boulder amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and following a series of mass shootings in the state in 2021.

"As if the year wasn't hard enough," Rankin said. "It's horrible."

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