Help Cliff & Vicki After House Fire

The home of Cliff Barry and Vicki Woodard in Boulder, Colorado, experienced a serious electrical fire on Saturday, June 21, 2014. Cliff and Vicki were out at the time and came home to their middle-class 4BR house full of black smoke so thick they couldn't enter. Neighbors heard their fire alarms sounding for several hours but didn't know what they were. (Update June 26: Cliff said when he and Vicki pulled up to the house on Saturday, they heard beeping and thought, What is that noise? They had smoke detectors in every room of the house, plus CO2 detectors, and all were going off, "so our house was really singing," but they couldn't tell where the noise was coming from, so it's not surprising the neighbors didn't realize what was happening. They went into the back yard, and then Cliff noticed wisps of smoke coming out a window.)

An electrical component inside a wall under a staircase overheated, the cause is still under investigation. The temperature inside the house was high enough to melt electronic equipment. The fire was reported in Boulder's newspaper, The Daily Camera.

Cliff and Vicki are staying in a hotel, they have clothes and food. They are asking for no phone calls. They are reading emails but aren't always up to doing it. (Update June 26: They'll be in the hotel another 10 days or so, then the insurance company will rent them a house of the same size to live in during the months that it will take for the house to get cleaned and repaired. They've heard from the restoration company, which will clean items taken from the home and store them until C&V need them.)

Vicki's three cats were subjected to smoke inhalation for three to four hours, were rescued by firefighters and examined at a nearby veterinary hospital. The oldest cat, Rosie, has a cough and probably has lung damage. A younger cat, Chloe, hid inside bedsprings and is in better shape, as is the other younger cat, Sheba. Cliff says the cats were traumatized and smell smoky, they're at the hotel with them, it helps Vicki to care for them. (Update June 26: The vet bill was around $1600 and isn't covered by insurance, the cats needed oxygen and tests, they'll continue to get treatment.)

The house was tested for the presence of asbestos, and asbestos was found in the downstairs. Cliff and Vicki have been told not to reenter the house. (Update June 26: Asbestos was found about 20 feet from the source of the fire, did not extend into the rest of the downstairs or to the upstairs. The abatement process will take weeks, someone comes to do an appraisal, then they seal off the rest of the house so the asbestos can't be spread, and then there's a more normal recovery on everything else.)

Water was leaking in the furnace room, for unknown reasons, so the water's been shut off and the system drained. The power has been off since the fire.

Cliff and Vicki run a business, Shadow Work Seminars, out of their home. The business owns a good deal of equipment -- computers, video equipment, phones, etc. At least one videocamera was melted. The business was insured, it's not clear yet what it will cover. The business insurance company inspectors can't get in the house because of the asbestos. Cliff had most of his documents and videos backed up. Important papers were in fire safes. Some items lost are probably irreplaceable, including a painting by Cliff's grandfather. (Update June 26: Cliff saw the painting while in the house briefly, he could see the scene through the sludge layer, and his insurance had a clause covering art objects.)

Insurance will cover a lot of their possessions, but it won't cover lost income. Cliff and Vicki will likely have no income for some time, and they are concerned about the financial impact. They're working to stay positive, which isn't a surprise to you if you know them. (Update June 26: After it happened, Cliff thought they were finished, out of business. "The support from people goes right to my heart, a lot of the sense of doom has lifted. Our lives have been turned upside-down, but we're okay, the sun is sitll out, it's only stuff that got wrecked.")

Vicki is a retired teacher, she taught In public elementary schools in the Denver/Boulder area for 29 years. She has lived in the house since arriving in Boulder nearly 40 years ago. She loves this house, since retiring she has spent much time and energy repainting and fixing it up in other ways. Vicki is trying to dream about what the house will look like when it's fixed up again and how happy that will make her. Vicki says it's a lesson in being in the present moment, because as soon as she gets away from the present moment she's overwhelmed.

Cliff and Vicki have spent their lives helping people. They have given or loaned generously to friends and family members in need. They have donated their time to counsel young people, parents, teachers, community leaders, and low-income members of African-American and Native American communities. They regularly care for Vicki's grandson.

Cliff and Vicki have helped hundreds of people. If you'd like to help them, here's how you can help soften the blow of the fire.


(1) Donate. Click the "Donate" button at the top of this page. 

(2) Help get the word out. Share this page on social media. You'll find buttons at the bottom of this page for sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. If you're in email contact with people who aren't on social media, please consider emailing them a link to this page:

Thank you for all you do.
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