SUPERIOR, Colo. — It was, in the words of Eric Levinson, a “normal Thursday morning.” He and his wife, Leslie, went hiking on Shanahan Ridge south of Boulder, grabbed some food, and headed back to their home on the edge of Superior.
“It was really windy,” Eric said of that morning – Dec. 30, 2021.
Leslie stepped out onto the back patio to tie down their outdoor furniture. She stepped back in and told Eric it was really dark, and she could hear sirens.
“We got on the Internet, the television, AM radio, to try and find out what was going on,” Eric said. “We couldn't find out anything,”
A few moments later, they raised the blinds on their west-facing family room windows. Their fence was on fire.
“All of a sudden,” Leslie said, “this big, huge flash happened in the neighbor’s house behind us.”
The Marshall Fire – the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history – roared their way.
“We knew we had to get out immediately, so we started yelling for son to come upstairs,” Leslie said. “We chased our pets around – we’ve got two cats and a dog, and one of the cats is blind. Each one of us took a pet. I ran out and got in the car.
“We were out of the house in 30 seconds. So, we had no 15 minutes, no warning, no nothing.”
They fled with the clothes on their backs and little else, and lost nearly everything they owned when the flames consumed their home – one of eight houses in the Coal Creek Crossing neighborhood destroyed by the fire.
Now, a year later, they are rebuilding. They broke ground on their home in August, and they hope to be moved back in by May.
Couple rebuilding after Marshall Fire
And they were relieved this week when Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle confirmed that the investigation into the cause and origin of the Marshall Fire should be wrapped up in the next few weeks.
“We have a lot of questions about what actually happened last December 30th,” Leslie said. “And knowing what happened I think will also give us some peace of mind and some closure.”
“It’s going to be kind of surreal – but exciting – to have those answers, to know what went on and how it started, and then how it got to Louisville and Superior,” Eric said.
Their biggest hope is that the completion of the investigation will lead to the kind of understanding that will help prevent another tragedy like the Marshall Fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 homes and killed two people.
There are already signs of that. During a walk through their under-construction home Thursday – which is an exact replica of the one they lost – they pointed to the new privacy fence lining their back property line. It’s metal, so it won’t burn.
There’s also the reality that the completion of the investigation could lead to criminal charges if there’s evidence someone started the fire on purpose or was seriously negligent. But Eric said he has not thought much about that possibility.
“I don't think there was any malice in what happened,” he said. “I think it was an accident. I don't think anybody purposefully did this.”
“I feel the same way Eric does,” Leslie said. “The most important thing to me is that we find out how and why it happened so we can take that, learn from it, and try to prevent future incidents, loss of life, property, destruction, all of that.”
While some others have chosen to move on, they are excited about returning home, knowing that it’s likely there’ll be another wildfire one day.
They’ll never forget how quickly the world changed for them and so many others.
“We were home in probably 20 minutes,” Eric said. “And within 15 or 20 minutes of that, we were evacuating. So, in the time that took us to leave there with nothing going on – absolutely another normal Colorado morning – there was a fire that’d come from that area all the way to our house, which is probably three or four miles as the crow flies.”
Contact 9Wants to Know investigator Kevin Vaughan with tips about this or any story: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-871-1862.
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