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Video: One Year Later, Boulder Fire Victims Still Recovering

It’s been a year since the most destructive wildfire in Colorado’s history sparked in Four Mile Canyon west of Boulder, blackening more than 6,000 acres and destroying 169 homes.

One year later, Jack Thompson is only just starting to rebuild. 

"We had absolutely nothing left, there was just ash, torched metal, melted glass," Thompson says.

This is not the first time he’s had to live through this trauma.  In 1989, just a few miles away, his home was destroyed by the Black Tiger Fire.

And I couldn’t imagine it happening again," Thompson says. "It’s got be greater than Powerball odds."

Like many fire victims, Thompson has spent most of the past year trying to settle with his insurance company.

"The insurance company’s job is to keep their money," he says. "It’s really a stand-off at times.

Insurance industry officials see it differently, noting that claims adjusters have to protect for fraud. 

"While it may seem easy just to cut me a check for the limits, the insurance company, to protect all their other policy holders, really has to have proof of loss," says Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

The industry says costly natural disasters like the Four Mile Canyon Fire are a reminder that people need to make sure they have enough coverage to rebuild their home in today's dollars. 

"We found that 60% of the folks were underinsured," says Garry Sanfacon, Boulder County's Four Mile fire recovery coordinator.  "That was a big wake-up call, a big shock to people, all the sudden they didn’t have as much money to rebuild what they had before."

So far Boulder County has issued 45 building permits, but only three people have actually moved back in. Some have decided that it’s not worth the money or extra responsibility.

"When it comes to wildfire what insurance companies have really done in reacting to that is really requiring that people take certain steps to protect their property," Walker says.

Jack Thompson’s property is already mostly protected because he’s removed hundreds of trees  and plans to rebuild a smarter more energy efficient stone and stucco house. 

"I don’t have to worry about wood siding catching on fire anymore," Thompson says.

This story was produced by Colorado Public Television's Amy Larson and  reported by KUNC's Kirk Siegler.  

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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