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Black Forest homeowners share stories of escape, rebuild 10 years later

Posted at 3:24 PM, Jun 15, 2023

BLACK FOREST — Laura Lollar nearly left her cats behind in her Black Forest home ten years ago as flames were traveling towards her historic log cabin.

"I said to my friend do you think if we leave enough food and water for the cats, they'll be okay? And he looked at me just horrified," Lollar said.

Her friend let her know, she may not have a home to back to.

Lollar is one of hundreds of Black Forest homeowners who had to evacuate 10 years ago on June 11, when the Black Forest Fire ripped through the rural community. The fire would remain the most destructive in state history until 2021, when the Marshall Fire in Boulder County destroyed more than a thousand homes.

Lollar remembers the day she escaped the flames clearly, she evacuated to her parent’s home.

“I walked in with my little roller board suitcase. And jokingly I said to [my mom] Well, this might be the only things we have left in this world. And she said I was being overdramatic.” Lollar said.

For days, she would watch local news to see the fire spread and any progress being made.

“You didn't know one way or the other, which was a very unsettling feeling.” Lollar said.

Eventually, she discovered through El Paso County assessor records her home was gone.

Lollar decided to return to Black Forest and rebuild her home on property. For her, losing her home meant losing a piece of history. Lollar said her cabin was built in the 1920s and belonged to Edith Wolford, who a nearby school is named after.

When she first returned to look at the damage and debris, it didn’t hit her she had lost nearly everything.

“It was weird. It was like looking at somebody else's house. It didn't impact me at all.” Lollar said.

Her home which once stood amongst a forest of trees, is now among a field.

“It’s great to know you have neighbors, but I miss having the trees around us,” Lollar said.

Carolyn Brown doesn’t dwell too much on what happened during the fire, a decade later.

“We were in the middle of a forest, and now we’re not,” Brown said. Brown lost her home in the flames, but several of her neighbors did not.

“Fires are weird,” she said when describing the path of the flames, “I wasn't here so I don't know what happened. But this house is new. The old one burned to the ground.”

Brown had been working on a stained glass project in her basement, when her phone kept ringing on June 11, 2013.

Her friends told her there was a fire, so she went outside to see. After traveling down the road, she saw a cloud of orange.

That’s when Brown evacuated all of her animals, including her horses and her dog and she left to get her horses to a safe place.

She made to sure to grab some important documents, but other than that she did not take much. While she lost her home, she rebuild as quickly as she could.

"I just felt that if I wanted to get my life back, I need to be proactive and and get things back in order." Brown said.

After all these years, she feels it's interesting what other people took with them, but for her she doesn't regret the things she left behind.

“Things are just things you can replace almost all stuff,” Brown said.

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