Colorado Springs, Colorado (CNN) – More than 375 homes have been destroyed in what authorities believe is the worst wildfire in Colorado history. Every single one of them has a story, and there are sure to be plenty more as Friday’s forecast predicts more scorching heat and strong winds.
Bill and Karen Moreau are sitting in a hotel room 15 miles away from the home they planned to spend the rest of their lives in. For the past three nights, they’ve struggled to sleep, dreaming fitfully that they are again walking its 7,000 square feet of hardwood floors. They open their huge front doors, and are immediately soothed by the view from large windows, an expanse of lush timber.
“We had the most beautiful home,” Karen Moreau said. “It’s just so sad that it’s gone.”
As firefighters and a cavalcade of responders battle the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs, families like the Moreaus are torn between absolute gratitude that they are safe, and sorrow that they’ve nothing left of their homes besides memories.
Around 3 p.m. Tuesday, Bill Moreau got a call at work from a friend warning him that he’d better get home. The Black Forest Fire was headed toward his neighborhood.
That day, there was little indication that the fire would pick up as it has, moving with a ferocity that has shocked seasoned emergency professionals.
Moreau met his wife, Karen, and their 30-year-old son, Craig, at home and saw smoke billowing two to three miles away.
Just as Californians prepare themselves for an earthquake and Floridians for a hurricane, Colorado residents know what they need to grab from home in case of a wildfire.
Because the smoke seemed relatively far away, they thought they had time.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s get some stuff ready,’ ” Bill Moreau said.
They grabbed their passports, birth certificates and some clothes. Bill got his computer.
“After a while, it was just random,” Karen said. “You start to think, ‘Well, what else do I take?’ “
Every year of their 34-year marriage, Bill has given her a Santa for Christmas.
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