Friday, June 21, 2013

Miracle car, and other pictures and stories from the Black Forest Fire

Posted by on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 2:56 PM

This morning, members of the local media were escorted on a tour of the Black Forest Burn area by El Paso County officials. (Click on the photo below to take a brief slideshow tour through the devastation.)

The one photo that doesn't entirely speak for itself is that of the virtually unscathed, bright red 1968 Ford Galaxie 500 that was miraculously spared the flames.

Fort Carson firefighter Ben Robinett, who didn't fight the Black Forest Fire's flames, but did lose his home in the inferno, happened to be on his property cleaning up today and was gracious in telling his story to a batch of local reporters. (For transparency purposes, I should note that I didn't personally ask any of the questions that prompted these answers — it was a group interview.)

Robinett rushed home with his 16-year-old to get his 11-year-old out, with little time to grab anything else.

Ford Galaxie Black Forest Fire

He didn't return to his property until Thursday, but by then knew that at least most of the car remained intact, because he'd seen a little red dot in the woods from a helicopter view shared in the Denver Post. "I was ecstatic. That's my baby, I thought she'd be gone too," he says, later sharing that "her" name is Birdie, because he's a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

"The girls now call her 'Tough Old Bird,'" he jokes. Fitting, since "the 68 galaxy is an all metal car — they're tough. The paint blistered, but that's about it."

Robinett says he's truly not sure how the car he estimates is worth around $30,000 survived — especially the rag top — when all the plastic cover around it melted, and virtually everything in the surrounding acreage was a total loss. But he says his father was a mechanic and always said, "The older things are, the better."

Even his fire safe, containing his great grandfather's guns, burned. It was rated to 1,500 degrees for an hour, "so it burned hotter than that."

Outside of all that, his neighborhood, off of Ravine Drive, was "gorgeous" before the fire. "It was always 10 degrees cooler than the Springs, "Robinett says. "There was always wind blowing — you could hear the trees blowing and birds chirping. It was nice. I liked it."

As for the car, he admits that before the fire "there wasn't a lot of sentimental attachment to it — I've actually probably owned 40 cars and I'm only 37 years old." But "now that she's survived, now there's more attachment to it."

His daughters, in particular, were "ecstatic" to learn that it lived, since "they don't have anything left." His 16-year-old is already trying to talk him into letting her drive it to prom. As for Robinett: "I just like it loud and obnoxious ... top down, that's the way to roll."

Black Forest Fire
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Fort Carson fireman Ben Robinett is as surprised as anyone that his classic car survived the fire.

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