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Volunteers build sifters to help victims who lost homes in the Marshall Fire find valuables in ash

As more people are allowed back to their burned homes, the sifters will help them dig through the ash.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — In the search for closure, everyone’s path is different.

People like Erin Moe know the power of a wooden box and some wire mesh.

"They’re a little homemade, a little rough around the edges," Moe joked as she pointed to a wooden sifter. 

As more homeowners are let back on to their properties after the Marshall Fire, they’re faced with the challenge of digging through rubble and ash to try and find any valuables that survived the flames. A group of volunteers is giving out tools to make that process a little easier.

RELATED: Don't disturb ash, debris from Marshall Fire, health officials say

Over the past two days, a group of friends that now calls themselves the "Sifter Squad" have put together more than 90 sifters to help people who lost their homes search through the ash for any valuables that may have survived. The ash falls through the mesh, leaving metals, coins, or anything else on top.

"Coins, or metals, things like that will stay," said Moe. "It’s been heavy, but you can tell that there’s a sense of hope, a sense that we are doing something that will help them."

On Wednesday, Boulder County Public Health released new guidance asking people to not sift through ash and debris from burned buildings, which can contain cancer-causing chemicals and toxic substances.

RELATED: Louisville fire chief reflects on Marshall Fire

A few days before that guidance was released, the group handed out the sifters at a donation drive Sunday. Now they'll take orders and deliver them for free. 

"Giving people the tools that they need is kind of the least you can do," said Michele Fitzwilliam, who helped start the program. 

The sifters help bring hope to people who have lost everything. People like Carol Murphy. 

"There’s nothing standing at all. It’s totally flat. Gone. Ash. That’s what I know," Murphy said of her home. "The whole street. Just flat."

She hasn’t been able to see her home yet. Today she got a sifter to try and piece together anything she can find when she is allowed back in. 

"Maybe there will be my grandmother’s spoons," Murphy hoped. 

She might find nothing. That could still be helpful for the healing process.

"What I’m hoping for now is just to be there and look a little. Maybe I’ll have more closure," said Murphy. "Even to know that we can’t find anything would be good to know. Otherwise I’m wondering."

Helping to find closure through a wooden box and some wire mesh.

"It’s heartbreaking to think that out of a beautiful home, what you have left is what can fit in here," said Moe. 

The Sifter Squad is also giving out PPE to people who need it so they can go through the ash safely. 

RELATED: Assistance center opens for victims of Marshall Fire

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