“Get out of Louisville.”
At 12:45 p.m. on December 30, Josh Gross looked at his phone and saw this cryptic text message from a friend who had a first view of the fire.
“What is that thing?” he was thinking. A cloud of dust was visible to the south and he wondered if there was a tornado. Gross called his wife, Madoline, at work and she found out online that the fire was growing rapidly and that Costco in Superior was being evacuated. She ran home to meet her husband.
“At that point, I think we’re evacuated, but it’s just smoke,” he said. “He’s not going to skip Highway 36. I thought 36 was going to be the line of fire.”
But with winds over 100 mph, there was no line of fire. And it was all happening so fast that most of Gross’ neighbors had no idea what was going on. “So I walked around our cul-de-sac and rang the doorbell,” he said.
We all know how this tragedy unfolded. By the time the fire reached the Cornerstone neighborhood of Louisville, where Josh and Madoline had lived for 12 years, there was nothing left to do. The firefighters had no chance of saving these houses. “It’s pretty intense to love, to cremate your whole life,” Gross told me.
Rock climbing has been a driving force in his life since 1990, when he started as a freshman in high school. A masterful climber and first-time climber, he has dozens of superb routes – athletic, traditional, multi-terrain – to his name across Colorado, Utah, Arizona and beyond. He was a climbing ranger for Rocky Mountain National Park for eight years and a guide since 1998.
Madoline has also been creating new routes since 2006, when the couple started climbing together. In the past few years alone she has bolted, cleaned up and climbed many first ascents on the West Rim up to 5.12 in difficulty.
Miguel Cebrian, a 33-year-old climber, also lost his home in the Marshall Fire. That morning, he and his wife Kathryn were hiking in the Flatirons when they noticed flames moving rapidly toward Louisville.
“We were really impressed with how fast he was, but there was something about the way he was moving that worried us,” Cebrian said. They called their two teenagers who were home at the time and told them to leave the house, just in case.
By the time they got home, dirty white smoke rose all around, but the fire itself was still far away. To be safe, Cebrian ran to collect wallets, passports, birth certificates and a few other things, not knowing that the house where he and his family had lived since 2010, his car and the rest of his material life would be lost. soon consumed. by the flames.
Yet even amidst the darkness of what has been called the most destructive fire in Colorado history, a light can be found.
“It was a traumatic experience, but also a very interesting one and in many ways a good experience,” Cebrian said. “It’s amazing how people have offered to help. I have never seen anything like it.
Among many donation centers for fire victims, Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder coordinated specific outdoor donations. The Cebrian family graciously received items such as warm jackets, trail running shoes and new or gently used clothing. “A lot of companies, a lot of people were very caring,” he said. “It’s refreshing to see how the whole community has come together.”
Gross had a similar experience.
“It’s overwhelming and humbling to see how many people in the climbing community have reached out – people I’ve roped in with, people I haven’t,” he said.
For now, he and Madoline are slowly trying to build back better, and with less. “We literally have a few duffel bags full of stuff. I think I had more when I was in my twenties and living in my truck,” he said with a laugh.
As for Cebrian, he learned the lesson of his children who, just a day after the fire, were already talking about their future home. He and Kathryn were in disbelief; Did they have any idea what that meant?
But maybe the kids were right, he said. “You can’t really change what happened, so you have to be excited about what’s to come.”
Contact Chris Weidner at [email protected] Follow him on Instagram @christopherweidner and Twitter @cweidner8.