Majority of homeowners plan to rebuild following East Troublesome Fire
At least 60% of the homeowners who lost their properties in the East Troublesome Fire plan to rebuild, according to data compiled by the Grand Foundation.
In an update to Grand County commissioners on Tuesday, Grand Foundation’s Executive Director Megan Ledin and Case Manager Rachel Kindsvatter outlined the work the nonprofit has done in compiling data on the East Troublesome Fire recovery.
Kindsvatter said her goal was to contact every individual affected by the fire to find out what their needs are and gather data on the widespread impact of the fire.
Through this work, the Grand Foundation identified 376 household contacts and was able to speak with 84% of those people. The nonprofit also cross-referenced information with county sources and site visits where possible to fill in some missing information.
With that work, 225 households reported an intention to rebuild. This is much higher than the 89 East Troublesome rebuilders who have applied for a county building permit as of Oct. 31, and Ledin explained that many people said they planned to get started in the coming years.
There were 47 homeowners who said they did not plan on rebuilding. Another 30 weren’t sure if they would rebuild, and 49 declined to share their plans. The remaining 25 were either renters or lost structures besides their houses.
The Grand Foundation was also able to parse out, of those that lost homes, how many people were secondary or primary homeowners. According to this data collection, 47% of burned homes were second homes while 36% were primary.
Thirty-one property owners did not disclose whether they were primary or second homeowners and 11 were commercial properties. A few other properties were listed as rentals or unsure.
Over a year out from the fire, 312 of the destroyed properties have removed their debris while 29 have not. County Manager Ed Moyer mentioned during the meeting that county staff would be coming back to the commissioners with a plan on what to do with these remaining properties.
Much of the debris removal happened thanks to a partnership between the county, Grand Foundation and Southern Colorado Baptist Relief. Over 161 homes received free debris removal assistance thanks to this work.
The Grand Foundation was also able to gather insurance information for many of the contacts that lost their properties. About 61% or 230 of those owners had insurance, though Ledin cautioned that many were underinsured — sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
She cited the rising costs of construction and undervaluing of homes as part of the reason for the discrepancy.
“I think a lot of people didn’t look at their insurance enough throughout the years and say ‘OK, if a disaster happens, what would it truly cost to rebuild my house?’” Ledin said.
There were 38 property owners who didn’t have insurance, and she explained there were a few reasons for this. Some uninsured properties were old family cabins, according to Ledin, while for some homeowners in the mobile home park, insurance cost more than their property.
Ledin added that about 40 families are still navigating the insurance process following the loss of their property.
“There are people who are still — for lack of a better word — fighting with the insurance companies to get everything they can to rebuild,” she said.
With the nonprofit’s work, the hope is that the Grand Foundation and county will have a better idea of what work has been done and is still needed for homeowners affected by the East Troublesome Fire.
Over 7,700 donors have given $3.8 million to the Grand County Wildfire Fund and nearly $2.6 million has been granted so far, including $1.7 million to renters and homeowners affected by the fire.
Ledin emphasized that the Grand Foundation plans to continue partnering with the county to address fire recovery needs in the coming years.
“We’ve always said this is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.
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