As Carrie and Jim Rottenborn sift through the ash and rubble of their home, the wind brings with it the all too familiar smell of smoke and burned wood. A concrete basement, a melted I-beam, a few recognizable kitchen appliances and a layer of ash is all that is left of their home that they have lived in for 14 years. The Waldo Canyon wildfire has destroyed 346 homes, most of them in the Rottenborn’s Mountain Shadows subdivision near Colorado Springs.
Among the ruins of their destroyed home they were able to recover a few small treasures – a sand dollar their daughter picked up while on vacation in North Carolina, a couple of silver spoons and some pottery that Carrie said with a laugh “I keep hearing everyone is finding pottery because it is already fired in a kiln, so it survives.”
The one item she hoped to find was some of her great grandmother’s china that had been passed down through the family. They were able to find a couple of tea cups from the set unbroken. Carrie added, “We are so appreciative of the volunteers being here, having someone to talk us through this has helped a lot,” referring to the emotional support the Red Cross is providing.
Just a few doors down, Jackie Calvano yelled out, “I found it, I found it,” pointing to one of two medals that she found while sifting the ash. She was looking for a particular medal that her boyfriend had given her on their first date. Smiling and hugging him, she said, “right now, I am the happiest girl on the planet.” While taking a short break from the heat and ash, Jackie looked over to the Red Cross supply truck and said, “We have plenty of water and snacks to keep us going, it is nice to not have to think about food and water right now.”
American Red Cross volunteers are going door-to-door in affected neighborhoods as residents saw their homes for the first time since the evacuation providing water, snacks, shovels, rakes, garbage bags, gloves, masks and a friendly smile. Red Cross volunteer, Carol Gross provides emotional support during disasters and said, “Disasters like these leave people feeling overwhelmed, stressed and I am here to offer a hug and support to let them know someone cares.”
While sitting in chairs that used to be on their back porch, Carrie simply stated, “It’s not much, but it is home and when we rebuild, we are calling the new place “Lemonade” because we are trying to make the best of this bad situation.”