'The Greatest Loss of All is Time'

Jun 30, 2017

Cindy and Mark Maluschka moved into their home in Mountain Shadows in 2010. 

"We looked at a lot of houses before we found that house," says Cindy, "when we walked in we knew it was the house."

"It fit us really well," adds Mark. "It was a beautiful house."

For nearly two years, they lived in that house with their daughter, Amber. They entertained guests, hosted family, and "built memories," says Cindy. "You could picture the graduation photos on the front," she recalls. "It was too short."

The Malushcka's home was destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire. 

Mark grabbed the computers and some important documents, and then just as they were about to leave, he remembered one last thing: the goldfish.

Unlike others who were evacuated or placed on pre-evacuation on Saturday, June 23rd, the Maluschka's weren't ordered to leave their house until the afternoon of Tuesday, the 26th, just hours before the fire moved into the neighborhood. 

That day, Cindy watched the 4pm press briefing, where city officials gave updates on the fire's progress.

"Everything seemed to be tracking pretty normally, and then all of a sudden the mayor went over and kind of had a sidebar. Then he said, 'the remainder of Mountain Shadows needs to evacuate,'" says Cindy.

"And it was the manner in which he said it," says Mark, "It was, 'evacuate.'"

With no time to lose, they began to gather whatever important items they could think of. Mark grabbed the computers and some important documents, and then just as they were about to leave, he remembered one last thing: the goldfish.

"Still have one of the goldfish today," he says. 

Though they weren't technically evacuated until that moment, the Maluschkas had pulled together some irreplaceable belongings a few days earlier, when they first heard that a fire was burning. They'd lived in Woodland Park during the Hayman Fire, and couldn't help but be a little cautious. 

"One of the things we did that ended up being really good in hindsight," recalls Cindy, "When we went in to pack up a few things [that previous Saturday], we gave our daughter -- who was then six -- a laundry basket. We said, put things in that you want to take."

"For the longest time, I couldn't go in a Target or a Walmart, because your brain starts working on the list," says Cindy.

When Amber came back with a basketfull of stuffed animals, Cindy encouraged her to try again. "So she repacked her bag, and she put in little blankies that she had when she was a baby, and other mementos and birthday presents... it ended up being really good because ... for the most part, for that place she was at in her life, she had the things that were really important to her. I wish I would have let her keep all the stuffed animals though."

The Maluschkas learned definitively that their house had burned several days after the fire, when a neighbor who was a police officer checked on it for them. When he told them the house was gone, Mark says he felt -- among other things -- relief.

"We had kind of talked about it before. If it goes, we wanted it to go [completely]," he remembers. "It was relief, but also, gosh, just the thought of getting back to work, getting back to normal, getting back to a place to live -- that was probably the hardest realization."

Rebuilding their life took time -- five years and counting. There were the big things, like haggling with insurance companies and constructing a new house from scratch. But there were also the little things, which sometimes seemed hardest.

"For the longest time, I couldn't go in a Target or a Walmart, because your brain starts working on the list," says Cindy. "It was too overwhelming to go buy a toothbrush, because you would pass 50 other things that you [used to have], and you knew now you needed."

"[Time] is the loss you can't get back."

Mark had a similar experience. "The first time I went into a Walmart after the fire, it was absolutely overwhelming. I ended up leaving. You know, the house, you understand it, but it's some of the other things that are really overwhelming."

Now that they've rebuilt their home and begun to move on with their lives, the Malushckas say they feel grateful for their ability to rebuild and for the help they've received along the way. But the years-long process has also taken a toll.

"The greatest loss of all is time. Our daughter was in first grade, now she's in middle school. What could we have done with all that time we spent battling with insurance, battling with builders, rebuilding, picking out things... that's the loss you can't get back," says Cindy.

Listen to the conversation between Cindy and Mark Maluschka in the player above. 

This story comes from 91.5 KRCC's special series, "Five Years Later: Remembering the Waldo Canyon Fire." Find more stories from those affected by the fire here.