Updated: June 23, 2013 at 7:52 am
With the mid-day sun bearing down on them and the ashes stirred up beneath them, Stephen Dean and his son Ransom wrestled with a fireproof safe Saturday.
The safe survived the Black Forest fire. The handle and dial did not.
Using crowbars, they pried and hammered. The back peeled off just enough to reveal another set of walls inside.
They were going to need a metal cutter.
The safe wasn't their biggest problem, though. The larger problem was that there was no insurance policy inside the safe.
In all, 19 structures on their 4.5 acres on Ravine Drive went up in smoke. That includes storage buildings, worksheds and other structures.
Their main residence, a 24-foot by 60-foot mobile home and the single-wide behind it for storage were nothing but bent steel frames and collapsed metal roofs. A cabin destroyed by the fire was built in the 1920s.
Husks of automobiles sat where they had been parked the day they were told by sheriff's deputies they had only a few minutes to get out. The fire was raging across the road.
Within five minutes, everything was gone, Ransom said.
"Thirty years of living here, you never expect it," Stephen said. "Then, all of a sudden."
On Saturday, they returned like hundreds of other homeowners, sifting through debris and ash.
They found a piece of a badge owned by Stephen's father, a former Brooklyn policeman. The part with the badge number, 27, was missing.
Mostly, though, everything of value was gone other than the items they left with.
Ransom said they forgot to pay their insurance premium because his mother, Marie, was in poor health.
She died in February.
"We were taking care of her," he said. "We just forgot to pay it. You never think something like this is going to happen."
That leaves them with few options - such as selling scrap metal to raise money,
Other than that, they will have to sell some of the land, Ransom said.
Its an open question how much the scorched land is worth now.
Trees surrounding the acreage were damaged and he figured they would have to cut down most of them, which would diminish the property value in addition to this new spectre of wildfire risk.
The two said they will likely buy another mobile home. It's the least expensive option -- and money is a factor because Ransom lost all of his tools in the fire and cannot work until they are replaced.
One place they plan to visit is the disaster recovery center on Garden of the Gods Road. The El Pomar Foundation has representatives there who provide help for uninsured property owners, said Dick Yost, patrol chaplain for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.
Yost and Barb Elstun were making the rounds Saturday, handing out water and snacks to people at their damaged homes. Elstun is a social worker and the two were also helping people deal with their emotions.
The Deans deal with theirs by staying busy, Ransom said.
"It's the grief process," Elstun said. "You're sad, you're mad, you want to blame somebody and then you finally accept it. It doesn't happen in any particular order."