Wildfire victims make huge decision to rebuild small

JEFFERSON COUNTY - What the Lower North Fork wildfire left behind in possessions, wasn't much. The emotional toll it took on a Jefferson County couple was enormous.

"We were drastically under-insured, unbeknownst to us. Like many people," Kristen Moeller said.

When Moeller and her husband, David Cottrell, returned to what was their dream home, built on the side of the foothills in rural Jefferson County, they saw ash, and one other thing.

"It was standing when we came back from the fire. Nothing else but the totem pole, wings on the ground, having burned off," Moeller said.

They thought they would rebuild. They bought a tiny trailer to live out of. They lasted 30 days in the burned out land before they left.

"Everything was black. There was soot on everything. It smelled like a barbeque. It was really difficult to be here and see all that. It would also be in the back of your mind what used to be sitting there," Cottrell said.

Kristen Moeller and her husband, David Cottrell, were one of dozens of families who lost their homes to wildfire in March of 2012 when a controlled burn got out of control and spread.

Three of their neighbors were killed.

"We lost our home, it was our dream home, our forever home. It breaks my heart. It was almost a living entity to us, and we lost that," Moeller said.

It's a scar now. It will never quite heal. The land, and the pair.

"It's healing, but you can also see it's destroyed, too. And it's both at the same time. It's the beauty and it's also the destruction and devastation," Moeller said.

They moved away to Evergreen. They struggled with a decision on what to do. They almost sold the land.

Kristen's self help book about not waiting had burned in the fire. She re-wrote it.

At the same time, more than a year and a half later, they made a big decision after coming across a company called 'Cabin Fever,' who agreed to build them a custom 'tiny' home.

They decided to rebuild to 500 square feet. They did it in six weeks, in time for a taping of a national television show called 'Tiny House Nation.'

"The house is a symbol of something, it's not the thing," Moeller said.

They're home, but still not settled. Due to losses they declared from the fire, they are being audited by the IRS.

"Dealing with stress is not a straight line. It's not just from here to there. It's so easy to think it should be," Moeller said.

At one point, the totem pole, the only thing to survive the fire, did fall.

They put it back up and it stands next to their new home.

"That totem pole is blackened, and the colors are gone, and one of the wings is mottled, and mushy looking. It's like, 'That's us, that is us,'" Moeller said.

Moeller recently published her book called, "What Are You Waiting For? Learn How To Rise to The Occasion of Your Life."

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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