Black Forest Fire photos taken by Alex Chambers.
The most destructive fire in state history has consumed close to 500 homes. Shifting winds have made it difficult to survey the damage from the Black Forest Fire, and more homes could be added to the list of those lost.
When Alex Chambers first heard the fire had broken out Tuesday, he knew no one was at his dad’s house in Black Forest. So he left his apartment in Colorado Springs to try to save his father’s motorcycle. Once there, he and his friend quickly realized they’d made a mistake.
“We tried to get out of Black Forest south on Black Forest Road, and we could only see about ten feet in front of us through the windshield,” Alex said. “And we had to stop because there was this fire raging across the road. We had to stop and turn around, and it got kind of scary at that point, ‘cause we weren’t sure which way we could get out of the forest.”
They made it out safely, but Brad Chambers, Alex’s father, who was at work at the time, was not happy to hear of his son’s rescue mission.
“I said, 'What are you, retarded, dude''?" he asked Alex. "It’s a motorcycle, don’t worry about it! I was just glad they got out, you know?”
Though his son Alex was ok, Brad Chambers wasn’t sure about the house. He was staying at a friend’s place in Parker when his daughter called with some short-lived good news that his house was not on the early list of damaged homes.
“And I’m like, ‘I’m the luckiest guy in Black Forest,’" Chambers said. “And the next night after work I’m taking a shower and I’m thinking how lucky I was. Got out of the shower and got and got a call, and she said it was gone. ... Still hasn’t hit I don’t think. I’m just numb, scattered. This is what I have, went and bought a shirt last night, and some socks and underwear, toothbrush, fingernail clippers, pair of scissors, razor, you know, and that’s all I got.”
He points to his brand new t-shirt, with a picture of a motorcycle on the front with the words UPHILL BATTLE emblazoned across the top.
“This is the shirt that I went and bought last night," he said. "It jumped out at me. ‘Uphill battle’ - figured that’s pretty fitting for what’s ahead of me.”
Brad lived in the house for more than two decades. The lot is so big and the area was so heavily wooded that he could barely see his neighbor’s driveway. He loved the privacy. Now he has a difficult decision to make.
“Are you going to rebuild or what are you going to do? I mean I have no clothes, no pictures of these guys - had three kids, they’re all grown up and out of the house. And just memories, albums, movies, just everything, you know?”
He says there’s no shortage of people offering help.
“You know, ‘you need a place to shower? A place to stay? Coffee? whatever, anytime.’ So yeah, good friends, won’t be a problem, but it’s not like going home and relaxing, you know? Miss that.”
Hundreds more Black Forest residents like Chambers don’t have a home to relax in anymore either.