A month after their home burned in Black Forest, Dale and Theresa Knoll could be the first to begin rebuilding, and to re-create their secluded home among the scorched pines.
Their decision to rebuild wasn't easy. At first, they wanted to pick up and leave since they had nothing left. But after 30 years on a beloved piece of property, and facing the prospect of moving "into town," they decided they had no other choice.
They love the forest; it's beautiful and spacious.
"It's gonna be a different kind of beautiful," Dale Knoll said Tuesday, as he strolled around the property at 12885 Rusk Lane.
Knoll, a builder and commercial building inspector, has already re-framed the couple's greenhouse, where they grew vegetables and kept a root cellar. On Thursday, he and his wife will watch as tresses are lowered onto their large garage, which will become their home until they finish rebuilding. For now, like many of their neighbors who couldn't leave the transformed forest, they are living in a trailer on their property.
Knoll's first dwelling on the land 30 years ago was a tent, where he lived until he bought a trailer. Over the years, he built around the trailer, adding on, until it looked just like a "beautiful old cabin," he said. His forest was dense - he hardly saw his neighbors, or spoke to them, and he couldn't even see through the pines to the east side of his property.
"I never could see over there from here," he said, pointing to the east side while standing between his half-built garage and the rubble-remnants of his home. After the Black Forest fire, his neighbors' destroyed homes appeared among the trees; he spoke to one neighbor more in one week than he typically did in a year.
The Knolls' main goals are clearing the debris, getting some shelter for the winter, and reviving their forest. Knoll has been watering some trees, whose needles are a dull yellow, in hopes that they'll come back to life. He wants to plant grass, as well. On Tuesday he was confident in the recovery but still a little shaken by the sheer transformation of his home.
He has to take it one day at a time.
"I'll just take my time, take some breaths, and just take care of the forest," he said.