BLACK FOREST, Colo. - Darrell Fortner had lived in his home for 20 years with his wife Jenny. On Thursday, he went back to the pile of ashes and debris that now sits off of Black Forest Road.
"I just don't think I'm awake yet, that's all," said Fortner, in tears as he looked at his property. "I can't believe it."
Fortner picked up a free shovel and sifter near where Black Forest Road is still blocked to everyone but residents. He soon found that even flames burning 2,500 degrees didn't steal everything. Most of what he found he related back to his wife.
"She loved anything with a cartoon on it," Fortner said as he picked up a Christmas mug with Santa's face.
He uncovered commonplace objects that hold years of memories, like two large steel bowls.
"We made a lot of jelly to give to people," he said. "I like to make strawberry and apple jelly, so does she."
There were small victories in the ashes, like a magnifying glass and a crocodile figurine. But also many reminders of all that's gone after two decades.
"The knife she gave me for Christmas," said Fortner as the pocketknife crumbled between his fingers.
The couple's greatest loss was their nine cats and four German Shepherds. Firefighters buried the dogs on the property, marking the graves with rocks and leaving a note on a tree.
"I thought, 'They're the greatest people in the world to take the time out of their lives to do such a wonderful thing,'" Fortner said, crying.
He said he will re-build here with his wife, his memories and those few mementos that survived along with them.
In his truck, he had a kitten in a carrier.
"This is for Jenny," Fortner said. "A brand new kitty."