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Contractor explains Marshall Fire debris removal process

Bob Blanke remodeled kitchens and did a little excavation before the fire. Now his entire business is dedicated to debris removal.

LOUISVILLE, Colo. — In most scenarios, the incessant beeping from an excavator is not pleasing to the ear. 

But Bob Blanke knows his machines are welcome in Louisville's Coal Creek Ranch neighborhood. 

“For once nobody’s complaining about the noise we’re making," said the CEO of CR Contracting, a local business based in Broomfield. 

Blanke's made noise around this neighborhood before. 

His company remodeled kitchens and finished basements in Coal Creek Ranch. But they've never done work quite like this. 

“It’s tough to show up with heavy equipment and scoop their lives out and put 'em in a dump truck," Blanke said. 

When his home was evacuated in Superior, he watched the Marshall Fire burn his town on the news. A few days later, he said, he put all his money, and everything he could borrow, into hiring new people and buying the right equipment for debris removal. 

“We didn’t come here from California to do this," Blanke said. "I mean, we live here. This is our town. These are our people. We know it inside and out because we’ve been here forever." 

The company's excavation manager, Kevin Gronquist, laid out the elaborate steps they have to go through to get the lots ready to rebuild on:

  • Cap utilities and get them inspected
  • Remove metal by using a magnet 
  • Remove ash inside and outside, and hire a company to adhere to safety protocols
  • Load out the ash while making sure it’s moist and not flying around
  • Inspection of the foundation for asbestos
  • Demo the foundation and recycle it
  • Another inspection with the city to make sure concrete is gone
  • Grade it all out

NEXT QUESTION: What happens with debris removed from Marshall Fire sites?

While the excavation work holds reminders of everything that was lost, Blanke hears hope too. 

“This is better than it was," he said, looking at the debris of a home that his company is clearing out. "At least I can look at this and see the progress. I can see what could be, and what will be, as opposed to what was.” 

Currently, only homeowners who have hired private contractors have started the debris removal process. People who opted to have their debris removed through Boulder County will have to wait a few more weeks. The contract for the company doing the work was approved on March 22. The county said Tuesday that work could begin in two to four weeks.

RELATED: What we know about the Marshall Fire 3 months later

RELATED: Marshall Fire debris removal could begin in 2-4 weeks

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