Allan Creely and his wife Sally moved to the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs in 1998. Both Allan and Sally had retired from the military, and they saw Mountain Shadows as the perfect place to settle.
"It seemed to be a nice place. It had a view, it was high -- everything we wanted in a house was here," Creely recalls.
On June 23rd, 2012, Creely got a call from a friend telling him that his house was under mandatory evacuation due to the fire burning in Waldo Canyon. He and Sally gathered some important personal effects and enough clothes to last a couple days, and headed for a friend's house. Like many who were evacuated, they didn't believe their home was really in jeopardy. That is, until Tuesday, June 26th, when strong winds began to push the fire down into Mountain Shadows.
Realizing what was at stake, the Creelys decided to drive back to their house -- disobeying a mandatory evacuation order -- to collect things they'd left behind.
"You could feel the heat of the fire," says Creely. "We knew that we had just a short amount of time. Within 10 minutes, we filled up the car with clothes, receipts, a few things that my wife and I had gotten in Vietnam. We threw them into the car and left."
Within a few hours, their home was gone.
Five years later, the Creelys have rebuilt their house, and Allan says the new place feels like home. It was a long road, full of grieving, battling with insurance companies, and coming to terms with a new normal. But, Creely says he's managed to find the bright side.
"Very few people get a mulligan, and, for us, this was a mulligan," he explains. "Our decisions now are smarter. We live with less. It's a restart. If you don't grieve too long, or too deeply, you can benefit by it."
Listen to Allan Creely's story in the player above.
This story comes from 91.5 KRCC's special series, "Five Years Later: Remembering the Waldo Canyon Fire." Find more stories from those affected by the fire here.
Southern Colorado is changing a lot these days. We can help you keep up. Sign up for the KRCC Weekly Digest here and get the stories that matter to Southern Colorado, delivered straight to your inbox.