EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - The community gathered in Black Forest Wednesday and reflected on Colorado's most destructive wildfire.
Wednesday marked the first anniversary of the Black Forest Fire. The fire claimed two lives and almost 500 homes. Since that time, homes have been rebuilt while other people have moved away.
El Paso County hosted Black Forest Community Picnic at Black Forest Regional Park Wednesday. Hundreds of people gathered, each with different stories about the day the fire started.
"A half hour from right now we left our property as the flames were crossing the road to engulf our property," said Larry Fariss.
He lost his home in the Black Forest Fire. After reality sank in, Fariss and his wife decided on a goal: They wanted to finish all work related into the fire and settle into a new place within the year.
Fariss said they accomplished their goal, and moved into a new home on the outskirts of the forest eight days ago.
"After one year I am totally done and I don't want to talk about the fire ever again," said Fariss.
Bonnie Olson also lost her home in the flames. For her, this year has been full of ups and downs. She said it's been a year of "spiritual growth." Her husband and her animals made it out alive and she has learned to be grateful for what she has.
"I think it's like a death. I've thought about when my mother passed. You think about it all the time, you think, "oh geez," but the days will be farther and farther between that it's not such an issue," said Olson.
Courtney Galentine remembered frantically packing her car with a few things and her children when she saw the massive smoke plume in the sky. Her home is still here, but she knows she is one of the lucky ones.
The past year has shown her that her neighbors aren't victims, they are survivors.
"Some days it's real sad. It's hard to drive home from work without tears. But, some days it's really cool. There is a lot of inspiration out there," said Galentine.
El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn attended Wednesday's picnic. He said it's been hard to watch people he represents go through so much. He said, though, it also makes him proud to see how far the community has come.
Black Forest Resident Gerry Hinderberger agrees.
"I think the community as a whole is a tighter knit community," said Hinderberger.