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Colorado scene: Family struggles with news that fire took home

June 28, 2012|By Jenny Deam

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Barb Palmer’s college-age kids knew Wednesday night that their home in Shadow Canyon was gone.

They figured it out by counting the smoldering foundations on their block on Google Earth. They didn’t break it to their mother until Thursday morning, hoping to let her finally sleep. Sleep is in short supply for the tens of thousands who have been evacuated and await news.

“My son and I were sitting on the couch and he said, “Mom, our house did burn,” Palmer said Thursday, her voice wavering.

Since the family had fled in the chaos of the approaching flames Tuesday afternoon, she had lived with the dread that her house probably was lost. It was only one street over from the famed Flying W Ranch, which -- as everyone knew -- had been destroyed.

But fires can be fickle. Sometimes one house stands while another doesn’t. “There was always hope,” she said. Now that is gone, too.

By 3 p.m. Palmer still had not received official word from the city, but she'd nevertheless begun to grieve.  “I already did my crying.”

“I am trying to process the reality of not having a home. I can make it through the next five minutes, the next four hours,” she said. “It’s hard to think of the next four days. We absolutely loved that house. You put your heart and soul into a home.”

The family had started making lists and gathering the precious things that make a life on Saturday when the Waldo Canyon fire first ignited. Evacuation was voluntary then.

But on Tuesday as the fire exploded over the ridge and raced toward their street, they began shoving everything they could into their cars.

The last thing Palmer did was move from room to room to make a video with her phone. She thought she might need it for insurance if the worst happened. On Thursday, she was not yet ready to look at it. She is haunted by fleeting images of things she wished she had packed.

“I’m OK. We got the kids out; we got the cats. The rest is just stuff. Some of it is irreplaceable but it’s still stuff. We’ll get through this. Life will go on.”

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Colorado scene: From aerial photos, a ray of hope amid wildfires

nation@latimes.com

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