From John Nickle's large picture windows he can watch the smoke billow from the Black Forest fire.
“We’re watching them like I’m sure they were watching up this direction from out there last year,” Nickle said. “If you look out when you see the black smoke you know that’s a structure.”
Last year, that smoke was coming from Nickle’s home. His was one of the 346 homes destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire.
“We had parts of the foundation left…and ash,” NIckle said.
Nickle and his wife were in Europe when they got the phone call.
“Our son, who lives in Steamboat called and said he was pretty sure our house was gone. We didn’t even know there was a fire going,” Nickle said.
Hanging on the walls, or sitting on shelves, you won’t see anything from his career in the Navy or life before the fire. Everything was in the home he and his wife had bought to retire in. But this was where they wanted to retire, so after the ashes settled, they rebuilt on the same spot.
“It’s not easy, but you got to move on,” Nickle said.
What is gone in seconds can come back in time. A year can change everything. Down the street from the Nickles, in another neighborhood that is almost rebuilt from the Waldo Canyon fire, Brian Austin and his wife were bringing belongings into a friend’s home from their cars.
“We housed them last year during the Waldo Canyon fire and they were gracious enough to offer us their house,” Austin said. “People are good. We’re real thankful to have a place.”
Left behind in the Gleneagle neighborhood is the first home the young couple has ever owned. As hard as it was to evacuate, last year’s experience helped with their own evacuation and bringing what they might never have remembered.
“My wife’s wedding dress…” Austin said.
It’s been months since the last time he made it up into the neighborhood where only a few houses remained after the Waldo Canyon fire. Looking around and seeing all the progress, he says makes him more confident about whatever might happen with the Black Forest fire.
“It shows you that there is hope, that as long as you stay safe, these are just houses, they’re things and you can rebuild,” Austin said.
Maybe, when the smoke from the Black Forest fire finally clears, those who have lost everything can look back up towards the Waldo Canyon burn scar…and this time, see hope for themselves.