Homes that survived the Marshall Fire hid another disaster inside

This commentary originally appeared on The Conversation.

On Dec. 30, 2021, one of the most destructive wildfires on record in Colorado swept through neighborhoods just a few miles from our offices at the University of Colorado Boulder. The flames destroyed over 1,000 buildings, yet when we drove through the affected neighborhoods, some houses were still completely intact right next to homes where nothing was left to burn.

Although the people who lived in these still-standing homes were spared the loss of everything they owned, when they returned after the fire, they found another disaster.

Noxious smells and ash on their windowsills and doorways initially made their homes unlivable – and potentially hazardous to human health. Some of these residents were still reporting health problems from being in their homes months later, even after the homes had been cleaned. Read more.