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Marshall Fire survivors share their journeys toward recovery

The Sherpas, Ferringtons and Chavezes will talk about their experiences over the next year or more as they look at rebuilding.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Change can come when it's least expected. Change arrived on an unusually blustery day on Dec. 30, 2021.

Lives were lost. Homes were destroyed. Families were forced to start a new journey that no one could have planned for.

Three of these families have agreed to let 9NEWS reporters follow them through the recovery process from beginning to end -- however long it takes. 

The Ferringtons

"We do really think in the future that this fullness that we're feeling, we'll be able to do so much better at giving it to other people," Nic Ferrington said.

In a home that isn't their own, Nic and Katie Ferrington seek out the parts of life that bring them joy. Nick's piano music is a reminder that beauty is still here.

"We had just finished building our forever home, we called it. Was in the location, the lot, the school district, everything that we had been working hard for, for many years," Katie said.

Their family of four lost their dream home on Panorama Drive in Boulder County.

"You can't imagine having lost everything, and yet the fact that we're doing it and we're going through it and we've processed the emotions and we're pulling together closer as a family, I have no doubt wherever we end up in life we're going to be just fine," Nic said.

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The Chavezes

"Every time we go to Superior, it’s just like getting kicked in the teeth. Just a knot in my stomach," Elsie Chavez said. 

In the midst of rebuilding their life, the Chavez family is trying to find joy. Elsie had planned to spend her 77th birthday in her home in Old Town Superior. But it burned.

"We just have to go on. It is tough," Elsie said.

Elsie lost her house alongside three other relatives, including her son Ted. They were all neighbors. The Chavez family lost five homes off the same street. Now, they are relying on family to get through their loss.

"Life has changed dramatically. But I really do think the family has gotten closer together, all my kids," Ted said.

Even without houses, the celebration continues to still have that sense of home.

"All the Latinos, I think we are really close," Elsie said.

RELATED: 'A new beginning': 5 generations of family rely on one another after Marshall Fire

The Sherpas

"Right now, my biggest focus is how to keep my children calm and focused," Karma Sherpa said.

When flames approached the Sherpa home in the Sagamore neighborhood, Karma had to get his 3-year-old daughter Sonia and 14-year-old son Sonam out of danger. They fought through winds that permanently bent the branches on their trees with an urgency to flee the Marshall Fire.

"I saw this big smoke coming overhead and then smell a lot of smoke," Karma said.

Sonam said he was not scared, but he was distressed.

"I didn't really have a lot of hope that our house would survive," Sonam said.

Dafuti Sherpa was visiting a friend when the fire destroyed their entire neighborhood.

"But, once I saw my family, I was okay," Dafuti said. "I made my peace there."

The routine and calm of the Sherpa family were interrupted.

"I was stressed out for the first two days. I just felt like, oh no, this is the end, or everything would come crashing down," Sonam said.

Dafuti said she and Karma had to remain strong.

"Take one step at a time and then keep going. But, you cannot stop, right? You have to keep going," Dafuti said.

That is a mantra and perseverance Karma said he brought with him from his homeland of Nepal. He said he needs it now for his kids.

"Calm and confident and then showing them hope that we can rebuild. We can make this better," Karma said.

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9NEWS will share the stories of these families as they each navigate the journeys to find their ways back home.

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