Watch CBS News

Finding Meaning In Rubble: Marshall Fire Victims Sort Through Debris

SUPERIOR, Colo. (CBS4) - Nearly two weeks after the Marshall Fire, residents are still reeling from the enormous impact it's having on their lives. Paul Williamson was tossing another piece of metal roofing into a pile.

"There's a lot of metal in everything that's in the house. So I'm pulling all that out and I'm working with a recycler to get that going and take it out and recycle it get paid for the scrap that they recycle for me."

It was a project that took his mind off things in a way. He had a home in Superior's Original Town, some called "Old Town," he was constantly fiddling with over the years, trying to make it more efficient.

RETURNING TO THE RUBBLE 10 PKG.transfer_frame_73
(credit: CBS)

He had solar and heavily insulated walls, a heat collection system on the roof and other innovations that kept his bills low. He was back working on it, even if it was to take apart what remained.

"So sweat equity is one way to do that. That's what I did to start with when I built this and that's what I've got to do this time."

He thought about what he had after 74 years of life.

"My son gave me some clothes, and I had one duffle bag that I went into the Residence Inn with, and I'm going, 'wow, after this time, this is all my possessions in one hand,'" he chuckled.

Nearby, Dave Crawford too was working on the remains of his home.

"I did find this Cannon that was in my Dad's office, and I think I found this earring that was my mother's."

He heads a nonprofit called Animal Health Now that lost records. His love of animals made him sad for the family pets left in homes and killed in the fire. In the few minutes he had before getting out, maybe, he thought, he might have been able to save them.

"I had time to knock on that door, and I heard his dog barking. I knocked on another door. The animals were inside. I could have grabbed them."

Crawford says he'll go to work with his organization to create a buddy system like app that might help people make connections in emergencies.

It's something that might have helped Jill Sellars. Earlier in the day, she had watched law enforcement use a trained dog on the remains of her home in another Superior neighborhood, confirm what she feared.

"Peanut was still in the house. Which we knew, but we still needed the closure."

Her beloved dog had perished in the fire. Dec. 30 was a terrible day for her. She spent the night before with her father as he passed from cancer and Alzheimer's. He died at midnight. As she came back from Boulder that morning she saw smoke.

Then realized neither she or her husband would be able to get back to the Sagamore neighborhood to save Peanut or their things.

"Lost my father that same morning and then my house and my dog."

She had come over the Original Town to look for friends whose home was lost too. She hoped again to see neighbors soon, since those connections she's found so important.

"It's not the people you just walk out front and you shovel each other's walks and you say hi to. We just want to rebuild more and get back with our neighbors because I appreciate them even more. I just loved my neighborhood."

In the fire they lost family photos that meant so much.

"The photos, they're all gone. I had scanned some of my son, I hadn't of my daughter. They're all gone." In the rubble though, she found a cup and saucer she had recently brought home that her father had sent her mother when he was serving in Korea. "It's one little piece but… I'll cherish that, I don't think I'll clean it."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.