'Yes, there are views. But the trees were special.'
By Rob Carrigan, email@example.com
Something like this changes you.
"Your whole life is gone. Even after you rebuild, the place is sterile, no photos left, no old clothes, no familiar jacket, or hat. Landmarks are gone. Just a lot of ash."
Bill Mantia, board vice president for Black Forest Together, Inc. knows this, perhaps as well as anyone.
"Once you go through something like the Black Forest Fire, and the rebuilding process. You are not normal," he says with authority.
Just about every tree, his two houses, fences, barns, clothes, all belongings — everything 40 acres can hold, disappeared that day in June, nearly two years ago.
Since then, it has been neighbor helping neighbor. Red Cross and insurance, tracking down mail, and dealing with the planning department, jumping through hoops with the phone company, and chipping trees, and preventing flooding.
There is stress, anxiety, depression. But in Mantia's mind, there is no use playing the blame game.
"Everybody did the best they could, under the conditions."
And rebuilding jumps forth, in fits and starts.
He and his wife deadpan jokes about their new wardrobe every now and then.
"Is that new?" he asks, knowing full well that don't have anything to wear that isn't. Everything turned to ash.
On the insurance front, even the well-insured probably have to come up with another 20 percent or so. The battle continues. Neighbor still help neighbors. The work and the rebuilding process goes on. Stumps, and blackened trees, unchecked stream flow, erosion, and sprouting vegetation.
Help still arrives, and friends are still a comfort.
Once a grove of trees, opens now, as a meadow with a view.
"Yes, there are views. But the trees were special," Mantia says wistfully.
1. Black Forest Together board vice president Bill Mantia points out the direction the fire traveled over his own property during an explanatory caravan tour, discussing lessons learned from the Black Forest fire.
2. Bill Mantia lost his own home in the fire and still is working hard every day to recover from the effects.
3. After the fire, came problems with flooding and this homeowner tries to slow down the devastating effects of unchecked runoff water.