GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — Nearly two years after the East Troublesome Fire raced through Grand County, recovery is slow.
"Over half of the people who lost their homes have not even started construction yet," said Steve Jensen, owner of Mountain Top Builders and the former President of Grand County Builders Association. "There are still close to 200 homes that have either not submitted for a permit or confirmed whether or not they’re rebuilding."
Jensen said of the 390 structures that were lost in the fire, so far only 124 have been issued a permit to rebuild.
Labor is the main problem. When the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County last December, Jensen said, the builders from the Front Range left the mountains to work jobs closer to home.
"If in the past maybe we had the opportunity to pull some trades and vendors from the Front Range to help with our building efforts up here, that’s really shifted the focus to dealing with what’s going on in their own backyard," Jensen said.
Only about 20% of the homeowners who lost homes in Grand County say they do not plan to rebuild.
As we come up on two years since the fire, some homeowners say insurance will no longer pay for rental properties. Some people are now living in RVs on their burned-out lots until they can rebuild.
Most builders in the area, like Jensen’s company, can only build a couple of homes a year. The waitlist is long.
"We are already backlogged into 2025, and I think that’s not unique to our company," Jensen said. "Most of the builders have the capacity to do two or three at a time."
After a massive fire, how quickly a community rebuilds depends on the area.
Eight months after the Marshall Fire, 65 building permits have already been issued in Superior, Louisville and unincorporated Boulder County. In the mountains of Grand County, some people are still without permits nearly two years after they lost their homes.
"As local builders, we have a limited capacity to take on these projects," Jensen said. "Our company is doing two rebuilds in 2022."
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