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THE MARSHALL FIRE: A Wall of Clouds and Flames Headed Towards Him at 100 mph

By Dennis Rainey

For my friend David Sunde, 2021 will be never be forgotten.

It began with the loss of his wife of 61 years, Sande, who died after a long bout with Alzheimer’s disease.

It ended with another great loss, like a bookend to the year, the loss of everything he had … or ALMOST everything.

David was at lunch with a friend at noon on December 30. As he was driving home the traffic gridlock was incredible, and he didn’t know why the traffic was gridlocked. But he stayed in the traffic because home was the only place to go.

When he pulled into his driveway, the raging wind and smoke made visibility almost zero. It was at that point that his cell phone rang. It was the first of many defining moments that would let him know that God was with him.

A neighbor was calling him and urgently pleaded. “David, don’t get out of your car! Don’t go inside your home … BACK OUT OF YOUR DRIVEWAY AND HEAD EAST! NOW!”

The only possessions David had with him were his cellphone and his jacket.

As he backed out, he saw a wall of raging red smoke and fire bearing down on him at nearly 100 mph, sweeping through the perimeter of his neighborhood.

He weaved his way out of his neighborhood and made his way to the Rec Center about a mile from his home. But as he started to pull in, he noticed that a line of cars was trying to get out of there too.

The only place he knew to go that was a safe distance away was a Walmart about 10 miles from his home. The trip normally took 15 minutes. On this day it took 90 minutes.

He parked his car and headed into the store. Another defining moment was about to take place.

He walked to the shoe department, remembering that was the only place that he could sit down for a moment and collect his thoughts.

“What am I doing here?”

David and Sande had asked that question before about their purpose and mission in life over 60 years ago when they decided to go to Dallas Theological Seminary and then invest their lives in college students with Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru.

Our friendship began when David and Sande helped us launch FamilyLife back in 1976. And as members of our Weekend to Remember speaker team, together they spoke at well over 100 of these conferences to over 50,000 people. He remains a trusted friend.

He was and is a great Bible teacher and equipped thousands of college students and laymen and women how to do life God’s way.

Sitting there in the Walmart shoe department, David knew a pack of water would be essential. He walked a few aisles to his left and found a 6-pack of water.

He knew he couldn’t just stay in the store, so decided to head out to his car.

It was then, as he was walking down the aisle toward checkout, when he felt the presence of someone beside him.

He glanced to his right and there was Kirk Jamison, owner of KT’s BBQ. For the past two years David had been attending a men’s Bible study on Wednesday mornings with Kirk.

“David, what are you doing here?” Kirk asked.

David then shared how he had ended up in Walmart.

Kirk could tell that David was a bit shaken and confused by all that was going on and said, “Come with me.” Then Kirk drove him to Boulder to the home of a friend where he was staying.

He explained how God had provided the house for him … and also for David. “You can stay here with us,” he said.

Over the next 24 hours David would discover that his house, and a thousand others, had been completely incinerated by what is now called the Colorado Marshall Fire.

What is left of David Sunde's home

Superior, Colorado, before and after the Marshall Fire, Sept. 11, 2021 and Jan. 2, 2022. Nearmap.

The next day David headed out to get a few necessities. He realized that he had a vital call later that morning with the insurance adjustor and that his cell phone had not been charged. There was no place to pull over and charge his phone, so he pulled over in a church parking lot.

He quickly connected his phone to the charger. He watched a massive 18-wheeler pull into to that lot and park. Because David’s car was the only car in the parking lot, the driver got out of his truck and walked across the parking lot to David.