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'Anything to hold on to': Boulder County homeowners sift through debris

The Boulder County Public Health Department released a warning last week about toxic ash in the rubble, but some say it's a risk they're willing to take.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — Homeowners who lost everything in the Boulder County fire were back on their properties Sunday morning sifting through debris. 

The Boulder County Public Health Department released a warning last week of toxic ash in the rubble. 

Makia Minich saw the post and understood why it was sent out, but on Sunday, it didn't stop him from sifting through the ash on his property.  

"We're trying to be as careful as we can knowing that we are at risk doing this," Minich said. "But we literally just lost everything, so I think just a little bit of closure would be hopeful overall, and that's what we're looking for." 

The health department said the synthetic material that burned during the fire can give off toxic emissions that are possibly cancerous. 

"At times like this, finding that one memento in the rubble can provide some solace. I get that, but it’s not worth the risk to your health," Boulder County Air Quality Coordinator Bill Hayes told 9NEWS on Thursday. "This level of trauma, it already puts a significant strain on you physically and mentally, and so we don’t want to add to that physical strain by exposing ourselves unnecessarily to these toxins. " 

But for many homeowners like Minich, the search is worth the risk. 

After losing everything, Minich hopes to take a little piece of his past with him as he moves forward. 

"We understand that there are risks to it. We understand a lot of people are going to be like 'Well it’s just stuff. It’s dumb. Don’t go in there. It’s dangerous.' But this is all I have at the moment, and I’m looking for anything to just hold on to," Minich said.  

Hayes said that toxic ash could be in the air for a year or more. He said they are working with FEMA to figure out how to safely remove that debris.

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