5:00am

Fri June 7, 2013
Wildfire

For Better For Worse, Rebuilding After The High Park Fire

This week we’ve been looking at both the property and the people impacted by rebuilding following last June’s High Park Fire. Mike and Sharon Guli were among the first evacuated when the fire broke out Saturday, June 9th.

Grace Hood visits the Gulis, who lost their Paradise Park home in the High Park Fire a year ago for Morning Edition

The Guli’s Paradise Park property is less than a mile from where a lightning strike touched off the High Park Fire. Six months ago they were taking time off from the clean up for the holidays.

Today, the burned rubble of their home has long been cleaned up. Much of the focus is on the land. Standing on the porch of their guesthouse, you can see a large meadow, ponds and at a certain point the hillside turns into black.

“It’s been interesting to me because as we’ve observed the last year I figure if I ever write a book, my chapters will have to be color coded to go from the gray to the black to the brown,” said Sharon.

Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

Right now, the chapter they’re in is “green.” Along with the help of friends and volunteers the Gulis have seeded some areas with grass and cleared more than 2,500 trees from their property. But when it comes to remodeling their living quarters—the guest house they moved into months ago—decisions have come slower.

“This entire rebuild project about six weeks ago came to a halt,” said Sharon. “I had realized—we both realized—the stress, the emotional toll of the fire.”

Sharon Guli shows a space once used for business in their guesthouse.
Credit Grace Hood / KUNC

The Gulis are rugged individualists who chose mountain living for a reason. Before the fire, they were using their guest house as a workspace for their two businesses. Since then, work and home life have seen shuffling priorities.

The other noticeable change to their property is a small building that Mike now uses as his workspace to make custom leather clothing with a historical flair.

For Sharon’s side of the business—she’s a seamstress and runs historical programs—they’re now planning to build a separate studio. Rebuilding work and living spaces have made things complicated—resulting in many decisions that weren’t part of their original plan.

“That’s one of the processes that you go through,” said Mike.”Life is different. I’ve talked to people who went through Katrina. Everything now is referred to as ‘pre-Katrina’ and ‘post- Katrina.’ We are now post fire. What we have to do with it is change the way we view the world. It’s not the same anymore.”

Sharon’s work studio has been higher on the list of priorities lately compared to their guesthouse remodel. And that gets at what’s been particularly hard about rebuilding for them. In a sense they’re rebuilding for two lives: work and home. 

“It added a certain level of complexity to our decision making,” said Sharon.

…including unexpected projects they never could have anticipated, like fixing their driveway.

“When we got the insurance money last fall and made a list of everywhere that the money would have to go, [we] never figured in we have to bring in how many loads of road base to repair our own driveway,” she said.

Those unexpected expenses will likely continue—along with other curve balls they and other fire survivors in the area never could had anticipated. As Mike says, it’s all part of living in a post High Park Fire world.