COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The biggest symbol yet of the Flying W Ranch's recovery from the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire was visible Thursday.
Workers began erecting trusses that will form the roof of the new building where guests will eat while watching the Flying W Wranglers and other live musicians perform.
A crane lifted one truss after another into place, to be secured by workers. The new building is in a different location from the original building and will be slightly smaller, able to seat 900 guests instead of 1,400.
The wildfire seven years ago destroyed everything on the popular ranch except for the Marian's Cooking Library and a miniature passenger train.
Rebuilding at the ranch began in 2015 after tree planting and other mitigation projects to protect ranch from flooding and erosion on the surrounding mountains.
There also have been financial challenges. The cost of rebuilding so far is nearing $4 million.
Owner Leigh Ann Wolfe said the ranch will reopen full-time during Memorial Day weekend next year.
"It won't be the same as it was," she said. "It can't be. It will be a slightly different experience. But we will eventually bring back the train, the library, the teepee and bring in more older buildings."
Wolfe's father, Russ Wolfe, founded the ranch in 1953. He died earlier this year and was committed to rebuilding the ranch.
The family wanted to end rebuilding plans at one point until the project builder, Kevin Klein, convinced them otherwise.
"I couldn't give up," he said. "I know the ranch is the family's legacy. We just needed to change some things to stay within budget and make everything work. I didn't agree with everything she wanted to do, but I tried to follow her vision."
A result of the rebuilding process was the creation of a forest management company, Markit! Forestry, that has expanded to several states and provided the ranch with lumber and revenue required for rebuilding.