On June 11th my wife looked up from her home office and saw smoke nearby our house. Before her brain fully engaged, she ran downstairs and ran towards the fire to see if there was any chance she could do anything to put it out. When she saw how large the situation was, her brain re-engaged and she called 911, and then frantically called me at my office. I dropped everything and drove home at 80 miles an hour--luckily my office is only about 5 miles away from the house. By the time I got there, the smoke had grown to a curtain and it was obvious that this was going to be a very bad fire. My wife had already grabbed the computer, the baby book and a few professional pictures that couldn't be replaced. I looked for our three cats, but only found one. He was firmly entrenched under our bed, and it was clear that we didn't have time to wrestle him out. I grabbed the fire safe box and we made a hasty exit. As I climbed into my car, I briefly thought about grabbing at least one of my bikes out of the nearby garage but decided that was stupid.
We drove down to the end of our street and my wife and I each ran to a different neighbor's house to bang on their doors. After making contact with each of them, we decided that going to the Black Forest Fire Station would be the best place for us to gather information so we drove there. The people at the station were incredibly nice, and they did everything they could to comfort us and let us know they were doing everything in their power to fight the beast that was quickly growing to our east. They set up a computer on their projection system and tuned it to the local TV station so we could get news on what was happening. It was on that huge screen that we saw the helicopter footage of our house burning down on live television.
My wife and I were in shock. The house was our dream house sitting on 5 heavily wooded acres. We had gone through two major remodels during the 4 years we had been there and the house had become our perfect home. We mourned for the kitties and then decided to leave the fire station and go pick up our 20 month old daughter at her daycare.
As painful as it was to see the house burn, we knew right away and were able to get moving as quickly as possible. We had 510 other neighbors who would slowly find out over the next few days about their losses. Overall, it was an amazing effort from our local firefighters, firefighters from all around Colorado and the surrounding states, and our local Army and Air Force. The fire was elevated to a Type 1 command in record time, and the mobilization was faster and larger than any previous fire. Unfortunately, Colorado Springs has become an expert at dealing with large scale fires. All in all, 511 houses and 14,000+ acres burned during the next week and a half, but there were only two deaths and no reported injuries. The fire fighters were able to save over 2,600 houses which is amazing considering how dense the forest is and how quickly the fire spread.
My wife, daughter and I were lucky to find a nice apartment nearby my office and our daycare so we jumped on it because we knew things would quickly be in short supply. We've begun the cleanup process at the house, and we have already engaged our builder to rebuild on our property. With all of the tragedy, we have been focusing on the silver linings to get us through. One of the biggest silver linings is the ability to re-build exactly how we want to and make the house even more perfect than it was.
The other thing that has helped get us through has been the amazing outpouring of support and love from our family, friends, employers, and the Colorado Springs community as a whole. One of the most touching things has been the "Karma bike" project that Jaydude initiated on the CO-FR forum to organize people sending spare parts to build a new bike for me. Last night on our weekly Wednesday evening ride, they presented the bike to me and I am absolutely blown away. This bike is absolutely perfect for me. The parts that the MTBR community provided are top notch and I can't begin to describe how moved I am. The frame is a Canfield Bros Nimble 9 with custom tie-dyed stickers saying "Kristian" and "Karma" with tie dye flames. The fork is a pushed Reba with U-turn Air which is the perfect fork for this bike. Every other detail is exactly what I would have picked too.
To kick off the ride correctly, I brought my Kona Unit frame to symbolize the birth of the new ride. The Unit was in the ash under a brick wall. All of the aluminum and magnesium parts has melted away, but the Hellbent Ti bars made it through the fire too. It is true: STEEL IS REAL!
It only took 1 pedal stroke to realize how amazing the Karma bike is. The handling is telepathic, and it is lighting fast--plus I had a lot of aggression to work out so releasing that really pushed me faster. The more I threw the bike around, the more it begged for more and it really ate up the chunky trails in Palmer Park. The ride last night was one of the best rides I've ever had!
Thanks again to everyone who donated parts, money, mechanic work or anything else to the project. I am so blown away by your generosity, and I'm completely stoked about how well the bike turned out! I look forward to putting many, many miles on it!
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