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WALDO CANYON FIRE: It's move-in day at first rebuilt home

By: RYAN MAYE HANDY
November 1, 2012
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photo - Four months and one week after their house was destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire, Joseph Boyd gives his wife Patricia Nelson-Boyd grief after she set off all the fire alarms in their newly rebuilt home while cooking a pizza in the oven for their first meal back in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood.  They were the first homeowners to completely rebuild and move back into their new house on Yankton Place on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Photo by MICHAEL CIAGLO/The Gazette
Four months and one week after their house was destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire, Joseph Boyd gives his wife Patricia Nelson-Boyd grief after she set off all the fire alarms in their newly rebuilt home while cooking a pizza in the oven for their first meal back in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. They were the first homeowners to completely rebuild and move back into their new house on Yankton Place on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Photo by MICHAEL CIAGLO/The Gazette 

Smoke filled the kitchen at 2270 Yankton Place and the alarms were shrilling.

Joseph Boyd and his wife Patricia Nelson-Boyd walked around their living room sniffing, and then saw a small plume of smoke rising from their brand-new oven. Nelson-Boyd had slightly burned a Papa Murphy’s pizza — the couple’s dinner on their first night home in the neighborhood that was consumed by the Waldo Canyon fire four months ago.

It was an ironic, if amusing, inaugural moment at the new home at 2270 Yankton Place, an eerie reminder of the smoke and flames that decimated the neighborhood and charred the nearby hillsides on June 26.

But on Thursday the Boyds enjoyed that pizza on paper-towel plates in their newly rebuilt home — the first of more than 300 homeowners to return.

Both are taking vacations from work to move themselves in, and they expect a houseload of new furniture to arrive on Saturday.

“We’ve got 10 days off to get our lives back on track,” Nelson-Boyd said. “I hope we can do it.”

But her husband had no doubts. “We can do it,” he said.

Like thousands of others evacuated from Mountain Shadows on the afternoon of June 26, the Boyds had little time to grab valuables, or to even consider the devastation they would find days later in place of a home. Nelson-Boyd packed clothing for three days before the evacuation, and the couple loaded each of their two SUVs with Boyd’s guitar collection and their four dogs, and got out.

Little was left when they returned. From the ashes Boyd picked a watermelon-rind remnant of an electric guitar; Nelson-Boyd grieved over the “little carcasses” of the couple’s four motorcycles in their garage, she said. There was only one thing to do, Boyd said, and that was move on.

The couple rushed to their new home after work Thursday and spent the better part of the afternoon breathlessly moving boxes. The house is on the same lot, now barren — gone is their little orchard of peach, plum and apple trees, and gone are the big spruce and maple trees planted out front.

But with the new home comes some perks — including a new floor plan, Boyd said.

“We didn’t have a second fireplace,” he said, proudly pointing to the new downstairs model. They replaced the old wooden wet-bar with a granite counter-topped version. “Before we had dreamed of improving from a second-class bar to a first-class bar,” Boyd said. He also likes the wine fridge in the kitchen, which the old home didn’t have.

The newness is novel, but disorienting, too, Nelson-Boyd pointed out.

“The worst part is trying to find all of our utensils right,” she said. For instance, when it came time to feed their four dogs on Thursday evening, she settled for a coffee mug and a whisk for mixing.

But beyond the utensils, the Boyds soon will find an odd mix of the familiar and the strange cropping up outside their master bedroom windows. The Yankton Place cul-de-sac was utterly destroyed by the fire. While the views of Ute Valley Park to the east are unchanged, the western hills are black and brown, and the neighborhood has been reduced to dirt and construction debris.

Before the fire, the Yankton Place neighbors exchanged a friendly hello on occasion; after the fire they met regularly for what they called “homeless dinners” with their old neighbors. They plan to host an annual block party on June 26, to commemorate the day all their lives changed irrevocably.

“It’s going to be a much friendlier neighborhood,” Boyd said.

Until then, however, certain abnormalities will have to be tolerated. For the first night at home, the Boyds slept on an air mattress, surrounded by four dog beds. Their bedroom view, looking on to Ute Valley Park, also shows several empty lots and two unfinished homes.

“The houses will all be different,” Nelson-Boyd said of the transformed neighborhood. “But home is home.”

Contact Ryan Maye Handy: 636-0261

Twitter @ryanmhandy

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