On one side of the street of 2nd Avenue, houses were untouched by the fire. On the other side, the homes are gone.
“It’s a nightmare. It’s a nightmare,” Ted Chavez said, shaking his head looking at the burned out homes.
Most of the homes along the street belonged to the Chavez family — generations who have lived in five houses along the block since the 1950s.
Ted lives in one home, his mother, Elsie, is two doors down. His aunt, cousins and uncles have homes sprinkled in between. The homes were built by Elsie’s grandfather when coal mining was a part of the community.
It’s where 76-year-old Elsie planned to live until the day she died.
“I did have a couple of things that I prepared — things for when God said it’s time to come for me. The kids will know where things were at, but not this kind of a thing, you know?” Elsie said.
The Chavez families were home the day the fires broke out. Like everyone else, they had little time.
“The ashes were hitting us in the back, and the smoke was … you can see 10 feet in front of you,” Ted said. “By the time we got into our cars and got out of there, we were seeing little fires on the side of the road.”
Even still, they thought they would be coming back home.
“I even locked the door behind me, you know? And then I told [Elsie], ‘Oh, I forgot the house key. Did you bring one?’ you know? And really thinking we’d come home the next day because I just felt the angels, but I really think they were there to protect us and lead us out,” Loretta Chavez said.
That was Dec. 30, and the families keep coming back to see what once was.
Things like a burned out Chevy Ted was planning to work on; Elsie’s new car that only had less than 2,000 miles on it; her sheds where she and her daughter, Loretta, kept chairs and cooking utensils for their family gatherings.
Screws and nails from who knows where now litter the yard.
The photo albums Elsie had been working on for years for her three kids, nine grandkids and 10 great grandkids were gone.
“I think that’s what hurts more for me, that I don’t have my kids’ pictures: Little League, pictures when they were born, my nephews, my nieces, my sister’s wedding, you know how we have all these things,” Elsie said.
And what would Elsie’s grandfather who built up this block of Old Town Superior say about the loss of the family homes?
Elsie said he’d probably say “si necesitas algo, llama me” meaning in Spanish, “if you need something, call me.”
That’s how the Chavez family has always lived: taking care of each other, looking out for everyone in the neighborhood and now finding themselves saying “thank you” to all those who have given so much to them in their time of need.
“My mom says, ‘Well, we got to send thank you cards out,’ and I say, ‘Maybe we can say right here, you know, that’s a lot of thank you cards,'” Ted said with a smile.
The Chavez family is so appreciative and warmed by the community’s generosity. They’ve begun making plans to build up the Chavez block again, but they just need time, patience and money. Because like so many other families who lost so much in the Marshall Fire, they, too, find themselves with homes that are underinsured.
If you’d like to help, the family has set up an account on GoFundMe.
They are also in need of a storage unit right now. They are currently staying with family but will need a more permanent place while they rebuild as well as a place to store furniture and other items.
Read More: Chavez family plans to rebuild after losing 5 homes in Marshall Fire