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Colorado couple rebuilds after losing everything to a wildfire

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday - Friday, which is when we hear from StoryCorps. Julie and Ron Lynam dreamed of retiring in the Colorado mountains. They saved for years and finally purchased a home surrounded by dense pine forest. And then in 2012, just weeks after moving in, Julie woke up to find one of the biggest wildfires in state history headed her way.

JULIE LYNAM: I went out on our porch, and I saw the smoke coming over Mount Ethel, and it was billowing - that orange and purple color that you know has so much fuel in it. It almost stopped my breath.

RON LYNAM: I wasn't even here. And then I got a call from you. We didn't really know how much time you had.

J LYNAM: We talked about what we would get out of the house, but I started to get panicked. At some point, I just had to say, whatever I've gotten, it's going to have to be enough.

R LYNAM: When they let us back in, we got up to the house, and it was the surface of the moon. Trees were burned. Everything was black. Holes where a tree used to be are still smoldering. You know, I thought, well, I can rebuild a house. I can do that, but I can't rebuild a forest.

J LYNAM: That was maybe one of the most bizarre things, to be looking at every gift I'd ever been given in a heap of ashes.

R LYNAM: I couldn't even prove who I was after the fire. College degrees, birth certificate - all evaporated.

J LYNAM: You know, the things that you own aren't just items. They're part of your story. I forgot to grab my baby books that I'd made of our kids when they were little, and those hurt the most. That was a surprise for me. I wasn't very tough.

R LYNAM: See - I think you were really tough. I mean, by the end of the summer, we had decided to build this up again. And plenty of people - they never come back, and we did. You figure out that maybe you're stronger than you thought you were - stupid, maybe, but tough. I don't express grief like you do, which is maybe not the healthiest thing in the world.

J LYNAM: The thing I've learned about you, Ron, is once you say you're going to do something, you do it. Watching you build this house, work until you were literally just too tired to raise that hammer one more time - you stuck with it. As you're going along, do you ever think about, what are the things in life that really endure?

R LYNAM: I think about that a lot - my family, my friends. But you can't count on things being around forever. Some of those trees were over 100 years old when they burned. Imagine what that tree had survived, but it didn't survive this. You know, before the fire, cutting down a live tree for me was no big deal. Now I'm not sure I could do it.

J LYNAM: Yeah.

R LYNAM: Neither one of us will live to see the big trees come back, but we're in this for the long haul.

(SOUNDBITE OF FRONT COUNTRY'S "SOMETIMES IT DOES")

INSKEEP: Ron and Julie Lynam, who spoke from the new home they built on their property in northern Colorado. Their conversation is archived at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jey Born
[Copyright 2024 NPR]