Usually quiet this time of the week, the Louisville Post Office came back to life on Sunday as letters, bills, prescriptions and more waited in makeshift mailboxes for their owners to come to claim them.
The Post Office, located along fire-ravaged McCaslin Boulevard, is among the lucky buildings left standing after the Marshall Fire, which reduced nearby homes and businesses to charred rubble as it swept through Louisville and Superior, becoming the most destructive fire on record in Colorado.
As the sun rose over the post office parking lot, a hint of smoke still in the air, the office reopened to allow residents affected by the fires to retrieve their mail. Mail isn’t necessarily the first thing people think of during a crisis, but for some who have lost their homes, letters and packages sent by a loved one can be just the comfort they need.
“It could be the first possession, the first new possession in your hand,” said US Postal Service spokesman David Rupert.
Rupert joined letter carriers across Colorado on Sunday who volunteered to help the post office pick up where it left off Thursday before it was evacuated.
At the back of the post office, carriers wasted no time on the workroom floor, sorting mail and packages, and trying to figure out which rooms still had a house and letterbox. The 26 letter carrier post office is responsible for deliveries to around 13,000 homes and businesses. Mail belonging to families whose houses are no longer standing, for now, is stored in numbered slots in temporary sturdy cardboard storage cases. Fifteen of these boxes line the work room, each containing 70 spaces.
Some postal workers have lost their homes. For others spared by the firestorm, the record takes on a personal tone.
Wes Maynard, a postman in Louisville, has been on the job for seven years, four of them on his current route that winds through neighborhoods near the Louisville Recreation and Senior Center and the Louisville Police Department. He makes around 600 deliveries in total on his route. Marshall’s fire devoured 200 of the homes that are now part of his daily life.
âI know all of the families and they have been incredibly nice to me,â Maynard said as he loaded a truck behind the post office with mail to deliver to the houses that were still intact.
While reeling from so many losses, he hopes to offer in return the same kind of compassion these families have shown him as he made day-to-day deliveries during the uncertainty of the pandemic. His clients have become friends, he says. âThere are kids following me as I deliver mail and talk to me,â said Maynard, who lives in Westminster.
He showed up for work Sunday morning in hopes of alleviating hardship for families along his route.
“I just want to do what I can for the people who have been so nice to me, and it seems the least I can do is make sure that they receive their mail – and especially the important things that come. – is organized and not an additional burden for them, âhe said.
Postmaster Robin Terneus, who also lives in Westminster, highlighted how closely the factors are linked to their communities.
âA lot of my carriers are devastated and are doing all they can to get out here and help the people they’ve known for so many years,â she said. âThey made friends there if they’ve had a route for a while. “
Throughout the day, she will work with her staff to assess the damage in their community and identify places where they can still deliver the mail.
âWe’ll just have a better idea of ââwhat can be delivered, what cannot and what needs to be withheld,â Terneus said.
The post office will be open until 5 p.m. Sunday and reopen from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day this week, Rupert said. As families find temporary accommodation and make lodgings to replenish their lives, the post office will work with them to reroute their mail, he said.
He noted how fortunate the post office is to have survived such devastation. Still, traces of fire are scattered throughout the building, with ash and soot covering the lobby floors. Volunteers worked to sweep it up on Sunday between their other chores after employees completed a “deep cleaning,” he said.
Some of these volunteers – who came from places like Fort Morgan, Durango and Colorado Springs – have already experienced the same sense of loss from wildfires as those they help. Rupert sees it as “a way to give back” on a day when they would usually take off.
âIt’s a Sunday, but it doesn’t mean anything to us,â Rupert said. “We know how important this is.”