It’s been almost a year to the day that the Charlotte fire tore through the mountains just outside of Pocatello and since that time we’ve learned the devastating cost not only to the land but also bore by the people who lost everything to the flames.
But, the human spirit is a resilient one as homeowners and neighbors came together to start anew in the days after the blaze. Some of the people we spoke with just days after the fire were Meg and Blake Allen. On July 1st, 2012 we heard about Meg and her garden that had, despite the destruction around it, survived the flames.
Now, one year later we check back with Meg and Blake on how the rebuilding process has gone, their triumphs, frustrations, and their outlook on the future.
"We were determined to rise above this, and I think that's what we've done," said Meg Allen.
Since the afternoon of June 28, 2012, it's been one foot in front of the other for the Allen's.
"You still have hope even though you saw the 30 foot wall of flames coming at you," Meg said. "You still have hope that maybe, somehow, your house survived."
"They told us that some did and some didn't," continued Blake, "and so you have that hope as you drive up the driveway and you look and it's so black, and you still have hope, then reality hits you."
"It's been a step by step process, first just small steps, just trying to find out what you want to do, even making the decision of if you want to rebuild," Meg said. "Once you make that decision, now, what do you want to rebuild."
But even in the midst of the destruction surrounding them, there were still glimmers of hope.
"A lady parked at the bottom of the driveway and walked up the driveway, and I have no idea who she was even to this day, and brought us a loaf of banana bread and some lemonade and she said, 'I just want you to know people are thinking about you and good luck with it.' She got right back in her car and drove off," said Meg. "It was one of the most random acts of kindness, those types of things really helped keep you going when you're faced with that much destruction of your life. So, whoever you are, thank you."
"The people of Pocatello came together," Blake said, "there were so many people from Inkom and McCammon and the local people that helped us so much."
And as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months since the fire, the Allen's continued to press on.
"I think for us at least the dominos have fallen pretty much as well as they could have fallen," Meg said. "For others, they haven't fallen quite in the line maybe they would like them to have. We were lucky to find Kent Morris Construction, once we found him and got a bid from him, then we got to deal with the insurance company and take care of all the paperwork, which took about two months. Again, thank you Farm Bureau.
But even with getting a few bounces to go there way and a lot of hard work, Meg and Blake say they would still rather go back to how things were
"If somebody could wiggle their nose and take all of this away and give us back what we had the morning of June 28th, there wouldn't be a decision to be made, it would be absolutely," said Meg. "We loved our home, we had just kind of gotten it exactly the way we had wanted it."
"You don't understand unless you've been there," Blake added, "fire, losing everything, you don't understand unless you've been there."
After spending the winter on the property living in a camper trailer and just a week ago moving into their new home, the rebuilding process is not complete for Meg and Blake, they will continue to press on as they have since June 28th, 2012, one step at a time.
"That inner strength that you have and if you come from good stock, from your forefathers and your families are strong people, chances are you are a strong person," Blake said. "It has to come from inside, it isn't something you learn or anything like that, it's what you are. We knew from day one that we were going to rebuild and we knew it was going to be a long time but it was going to be worth it."
All told, the Charlotte fire consumed 66 homes and over 1,000 acres.