DENVER — Right before the near year, Wendy Buffer was enjoying a day with her grandkids.
Her daughter had come over, and they decided to run over to the Costco in Superior to get a COVID booster shot. As they were leaving for the store, they saw smoke and wind and thought this is going to be tough firefighters but their own neighborhood was safe.
Once inside the Costco, Buffer said an employee started to tell them to evacuate because the fire was at the back of the store. They left the building and were met with a cloud of smoke. All they could see of the firetrucks were the lights.
Buffer said they managed to make it back home and were still calm until the electricity went out and the flames started to enter the neighborhood.
"Fences behind my neighbors were on fire," said Buffer. "The bushes were on fire. It was on our side."
Buffer and her husband started throwing together things that couldn't be replaced, like baby photos and antiques. Her son-in-law then came by to help them and told Buffer she needed to leave now.
Her husband got video of a neighbor's home vanishing into the flames as they were trying to leave and thought, for sure, the same was in store for them.
"Around 2:45, there were going through the neighborhood with a bull horn saying to get out now," she said.
She didn't have the heart to go back to her house the next day but her husband wanted to see the loss for himself.
Then Buffer got a call from her husband in tears.
"He called crying saying, 'You're not going to believe it. It's still here. It's still standing,'" she said.
Their home was the only one left in the neighborhood.
"Our daughter went over with us, we walked in. My husband unlocked the door and she stood frozen in the foyer," Buffer said. "And she said, 'It's as if time stood still in our house,' because everything was there and nobody else around us has anything."
Buffer isn't sure how their home survived but heard through a friend who is a firefighter that crews were valiantly trying to save their house. The shock was compounded by the fact that three years ago, Buffer's family lost another home in a wildfire in southern Colorado.
"If I could do anything -- I wish people who lost everything could hear me it does get better. It's hard. It's a hard process. Not easy to get through but you turn around and look back and think wow it's better. I know so much more. I'm so much stronger," she said.
It's one of the many reasons that while her neighbors rebuild, Buffer's home will be open to them, whether that's to use the bathroom, the phone or internet.
There's no question this family will be going back home.
"It's my home. Those are my friends, our neighbors. We love it there," Buffer said.
Buffer said her home has smoke and ash damage, so she is in a rental right now and in the process of repairs.