GRAND LAKE, Colo. — The goal was to move in by Christmas. Now, a family who lost nearly everything in the East Troublesome Fire more than a year ago is one of the first to rebuild and settle into their new home.
Matt Reed-Tolonen didn’t know if he’d be able to put up Christmas decorations in his own house this year. Last Christmas, his family was coming to terms with losing their home and most of their belongings.
A lot has changed.
"This is it. First tree in the new house. It’s a pretty good size," Reed-Tolonen said as he sat in his new living room looking at his Christmas tree. "We’re working on making it home. We’re not quite there yet, I would say."
For the first time in a long time, traditions can be shared at home.
"Which one is your favorite ornament?" Reed-Tolonen asked his 4-year-old daughter Emery as they decorated the tree.
The building process had to go quickly so that Emery could begin exploring her new home, just in time for the holidays.
They spent years building their last home themselves, before the fire destroyed it less than a year after it was finished.
"Eleven months in the old house, but other than that it’s been building for five years. That’s all she knows," Reed-Tolonen said. "That’s been the goal the whole time, to get her back in her house."
The rebuilding process has been long in Grand County.
Challenges with getting money from insurance companies, as well as a shortage of builders in the area, have slowed down the recovery as families move forward from the October 2020 fire. So far, fewer than half of the people who’ve said they want to rebuild have been issued a permit to do so.
To be one of the first to rebuild and move in is not a job this family could have done alone.
"I want to tell everybody thank you. From both of us, my wife Ashley. Our builders, all of our trades, our friends, our families, both of our works. We definitely wouldn’t be here without them," Reed-Tolonen said. "From flexibility, to understanding, to putting us first. Thank you. Thank you guys. Everybody."
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