EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The 2013 Waldo Canyon and 2013 Black Forest wildfires took away the Fourth of July enthusiasm for hundreds who lost homes, but the mood is changing for this year's holiday.
On Thursday, many homeowners said they plan to take trips out of town for the first time since those fires. More people have moved into rebuilt homes and now feel they have time to enjoy a holiday without the stress of recovering from the fires.
Mike Miller and Diane Miller, of Mountain Shadows, lost their home in the Waldo Canyon Fire. Before that, they'd taken a trip every Independence Day weekend.
"It's nice being home this year, and being able to have the freedom to go on a camping trip if we want, and come back to our house, which is nice," they said. "The spirit is back in our neighborhood. We're seeing campers on the street. People seem to be loading up."
However, Gary Mustian, of Black Forest, won't be going anywhere. He and his family just moved into their rebuilt home after last year's wildfire destroyed it.
Yet as he looked at acres of charred trees around his home and watched his son, ride his bicycle in the yard, Mustian didn't mind staying home for the weekend.
"Everyone that I've talked to that has lost a home, they're all excited to get back in -- just like we were," he said. "We wanted to get back into the house and just get settled. Last Fourth of July, it was just devastating. All of us in the cul-de-sac had just come out and seen the damage. We came out here as a group and hugged each other, then went to our respective homes."
Mustian said he and his family took a vacation later that summer to restore some normalcy in their lives after the fire.