After the smoke clears: Stories from the Colorado Black Forest fire
As the flames have been contained in the Black Forest wildfire, stories behind the statistics of homes destroyed, people displaced and acres burned are beginning to emerge.
The customer who had a large pond on his property and allowed firefighters access to it so they would have water to douse the flames if needed.
The woman who found a bird house still standing, covered in slurry and the nest of baby bluebirds alive and well with the mamma bird looking on from a nearby branch.
And the story of our customers, Kevin and Rebecca Morehouse, who suffered a total loss to their home.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin and Rebecca last week and speak to them about their experience, what was saved and lost and what their plans are for the future.
The Morehouses consider themselves to be very lucky. Rebecca heard about the fire burning in the Black Forest from a coworker and rushed home, and she contacted her husband, who followed with friends from work in their pickup trucks. Together, they quickly gathered possessions that held sentimental value – family heirlooms and photos of their children, special gifts that were made for them by parents or grandparents.
Rebecca seems relieved to know that these special items were saved and can be passed on to their children and grandchildren.
The conversation then turned to what they didn’t manage to save. While Rebecca and Kevin had two hours to clear out whatever they could grab, many irreplaceable items were left behind. A portrait of their daughter, photos of their son’s sports teams, items from when their children were babies. When they were allowed to return to their home last week for a few hours, Rebecca sifted through the ashes and found the nightlight that was in her son’s room as a baby. Her face lit up when talking about that sentimental object surviving the blaze.
Despite the loss of their home and possessions, Kevin and Rebecca aren’t bitter or disgruntled. They seemed grateful. They have high praise for their agent, Nigel Cass (Colorado Springs), who called within hours of the blaze starting to check on them, as well as their adjuster, John Niemeyer, who promised to walk them through the process and “take care of them.”
And as Rebecca said, we know American Family will take care of us, and we’re with American Family Insurance for life.
Echoing one another’s comments, the two seem at peace with the events of the past two weeks, knowing full well the difficult journey that lies ahead. As they sat with their arms around one another they shared how they felt blessed to still have the most important things; their children, neighbors, dog and each other.
After speaking with the two of them, I was the one feeling blessed. Not because I didn’t have to personally go through such a horrible experience, but because I work for a company that has the financial and personnel resources to get people like Kevin and Rebecca on the road to recovery.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance customers affected by the Colorado wildfires can report claims by contacting our 24-hour Customer Care Center, 1-800-MY-AMFAM (692-6326), their local agent or by completing our online insurance claim form. Visit our website for answers to common questions about wildfire claims.