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Fewer than 200 Marshall Fire survivors are back home 2 years after the Colorado wildfire and insurance coverage for rent is running out

Less than 200 Marshall Fire survivors are home and insurance coverage is running out
Less than 200 Marshall Fire survivors are home and insurance coverage is running out 03:23

Nearly two years after the Marshall Fire, most fire victims are still out of their homes and, in two and a half months, they will be out of insurance to cover rent.

A view of the Marshall Fire in Louisville, Colorado, on Dec. 30, 2021. Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Coverage for Additional Living Expenses -- or ALE -- runs out the end of December.

Only 188 families - of the nearly 1,100 who lost their homes - have finished rebuilding their homes and moved back. That means almost 900 families will be stuck paying rent, on top of mortgages in many cases, and most are already struggling with under-insurance.

After losing her Louisville home of 30 years in the fire, Julie Tarnowski-Marks says she and her husband wasted no time looking for a contractor to rebuild.

"My husband was working with Remington and other builders from day one," she said.

656 days later, they have a foundation.

"They're predicting that it will be ready in June," said Tarnowski-Marks. "But that's a very generous prediction."

In the meantime, she says she and her husband are renting a home for $5,200 a month, rent they will have to pay starting Dec. 31.

"It's a punch in the gut," says Tarnowski-Marks. "We're at the age of retirement and now dipping into savings so that we can pay for that. And knowing as you age, there's other rainy days ahead."


She says it's unrealistic to expect more than a thousand people -- competing for the same contractors, materials, permits and inspections -- to rebuild in two years.

"Families have been under enough duress. They can't take much more."

Tarnowski-Marks is a social worker at Monarch K-8 School in Louisville, and sees the toll the fire has taken every day, both financially and emotionally.

"There are families from the fire that are on the brink of homelessness," she said.

Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat who represents Colorado's 2nd Congressional District, met with fire survivors last week. His office says he is well-aware of the looming deadline. Neguse was instrumental in convincing insurers to extend coverage for ALE from 12 to 24 months last year but it's unclear if insurers will agree to another extension. Colorado Insurance Commissioner Mike Conway is urging insurers to do so but state lawmakers tell CBS News Colorado they do not want to issue a mandate. As CBS News Colorado has previously reported, some insurers are already pulling out of Colorado due to the high cost of wildfires and hail storms.

Tarnowski-Marks says she and her husband have tried to see themselves as survivors not victims but two years of hardship and heartache is too much. Fire survivors, she says, need a break.

"It would be a blessing if the insurance companies would just step up," she said. 

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