Louisville Glassblower Nearly Lost Everything in Marshall Fire

Chris Schutz plays with fire for a living, but on December 30, his life was taken over by flames.

The Colorado glassblowing artist was running errands in Boulder when he first saw smoke from the Marshall fire, which would go on to destroy approximately 1,100 homes across Boulder County. When he arrived back home in Louisville, though, he was thinking about lunch, not evacuation.

"It was a couple miles away when I first saw it, and I thought, 'Oh, big deal,'" he remembers. "It was windy, but it looked like a brush fire."

Schutz's curiosity eventually got the better of him, and he walked behind his house to the Davidson Mesa trail, where his view was clearer. "It was more windy up there, and smoke was coming strong. I saw a flicker of flame, and that's when I knew I had to go," he says. "I heard it was moving at the length of a football field each second."

Schutz ran about 650 feet back to his home and told his sister, whom he lives with, to grab what she could and evacuate immediately. He stayed behind to spray the house with water as a last-ditch effort, but fled when a neighbor's house caught fire. As Schutz drove out of his subdivision, another neighbor's home caught fire, and his hopes dimmed.

"I left my house with a bird and the clothes on my back," Schutz recalls. "We got word about the house the next morning."
click to enlarge The remains of Chris Schutz's home after the Marshall Fire. - COURTESY OF CHRIS SCHUTZ
The remains of Chris Schutz's home after the Marshall Fire.
Courtesy of Chris Schutz
Of the 58 homes in Schutz's neighborhood, only seven remain, he says, and his isn't one of them. The house where he'd lived for over two decades was burned to the foundation.

"Everything I had either is gone or smells like smoke now, so I had to go to Walmart at 7 a.m. the next day for new clothes," he says. "Then there's a lot of small things, things like silverware and dining ware, and even something simple like a coffee mug. Having to get those things again, and losing sentimental things like that, is hard. All of a sudden you remember something, like not grabbing a youth hockey jersey or a yearbook, and your day just kind of sinks from there."

Faced with tasks such as securing a temporary place to stay, buying new clothes and completing a long list of insurance forms, Schutz didn't have time to mourn. He's also now dealing with issues such as toxic waste removal and looters, who've already been caught in his neighborhood. He's secured a temporary home in Westminster, he says, but has to wait another two to three months for furniture.

"You have over 1,000 people who became homeless overnight, so we're extremely lucky to have a place to live right now," he says.

Schutz lost the majority of his work and his equipment in the fire, he says, but many of his peers have been there to help, "whether it's offering work or just getting out to hang out and clear the brain."

The glassware and cannabis communities are providing more just than a friendly space: They're currently raising funds in Schutz's name. Colorado Cannabis Tours, a cannabis-friendly tour and hospitality company, started a GoFundMe campaign to help the artist get back on his feet; the company is also pledging to match donations of up to $100 from employees and industry partners, and will provide up to a dollar-for-dollar match in Colorado Cannabis Tours credits (up to $100) to anyone else who donates.
click to enlarge Schutz teaches glassblowing through Colorado Cannabis Tours, a marijuana tour company in the Denver area. - COURTESY OF CHRIS SCHUTZ
Schutz teaches glassblowing through Colorado Cannabis Tours, a marijuana tour company in the Denver area.
Courtesy of Chris Schutz
Colorado Cannabis Tour founder Michael Eymer met Schutz about eight years ago when Eymer was just starting his business. Eymer was looking for a glass artist to demonstrate the craft and teach an introductory class on glassblowing, and the two quickly became partners and friends.

"He's been there every time I've needed him. For eight years, he's been there for me. There's a long time in between getting insurance on the house and rebuilding it, and he's going without clothing and everything," Eymer says.

While Eymer and friends do their bit to help, Schutz doesn't want to sit around.

"I've been doing this for almost twenty years now, and it's my source of income. I've got to get back working and teaching classes. Using those torches and tools is my passion," he says, adding that he'll soon be teaching again at his Englewood studio, Mean Skreenz.

In the meantime, he's waiting to see if a home can be safely constructed on the foundation of his burned house. "We're going to rebuild," he says. "It's funny: Now that everything is gone, you can why everyone moved here. It's a beautiful place."