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Retired architect designs homes for neighbors after Marshall Fire

After Jason Serbu lost his home in the Marshall Fire he left retirement to design his own dream home, then started a new firm to build back his neighbors' homes too.

SUPERIOR, Colo. — Trying to find a way to help – that's the story of many who responded after the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Boulder County last December.

Jason Serbu survived the fire but lost his own home. He couldn't sit on the sidelines while people in his community needed help.

The wildfire destroyed Serbu's downtown Superior home, but he decided to look on the bright side.

"I finally had a chance to design the dream home my wife always wanted that I never had time to do before," Serbu said. "And I figured I could do one home, I could do 10 homes."

He had retired from the business of designing homes as an architect until the Marshall Fire hit.

"I think architecture is one of those things you can never retire from," Serbu said. "I think the best thing that happens to me is that I'll grow old at a drafting table."

Instead of retiring from architecture, Serbu now designs homes for fire survivors – including himself.

"I mean, the fire hit everybody as a wake-up call," Serbu said. 

He can understand his clients' loss. 

"When I say I know what you're going through, I truly do know what you're going through," he said. "I wish we all didn't."

So far, he's completed the designs on four homes, including his own – and rediscovered his passion along the way.

"The place I always wanted to live in, I can do that now," he said.

His journey of recovering from the fire led him to establish a new firm, bring on employees and plan to keep building – beyond fire reconstruction.

"You can look at this disaster one of two ways," Serbu said. "You can let it get you down and affect you negatively, and I understand a lot of times it's very difficult to look at the positive."

His clients want to rebuild better so this doesn't happen again. Watching their home grow from paper to 3D design helps begin to heal the scars the fire left behind.

"This is sort of the ray of hope of everything that we're going through, is doing this," one fire survivor said.

Dozens of fire survivors have permits to start construction on new homes, while hundreds are still waiting to decide whether to rebuild or not.

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