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Friends help Cortez couple rebuild lives after fire

Mancos couple seeks volunteers to clean up trailer
A fire at the Sikis Village Mobile Home Park, 321 S. Broadway, destroyed the home of Gary and Novella Nicholas on March 17.

A Mancos couple is trying to help two Cortez residents rebuild after their trailer burned down on March 17.

Gary and Novella Nicholas were injured and lost most of their belongings, including two dogs, after an oxygen tank exploded inside their trailer in the Sikis Village Mobile Home Park, likely due to a dropped cigarette. Angela Daniels, a Mancos resident who said she has known the couple for years, has been helping them retrieve belongings from the rubble. On Saturday, she and her husband started tearing down the burned trailer, but she said she’s looking for more volunteers to help with the job.

The husband and wife have been released from the hospital, but are living in a motel while they search for a new place to live. Gary Nicholas said they weren’t able to save even their clothes from the fire, and had to get new ones after leaving the hospital. Daniels said she helped retrieve Novella Nicholas’s wedding ring from the ashes, but few other items were salvageable.

“They have absolutely nothing,” Daniels said. “This couple deserves to have a better life.”

Gary Nicholas said he and his wife are sad to lose their beloved dogs, Nella and Stewy, but he said they’re still in good spirits despite their circumstances. The 77-year-old veteran said local organizations like the American Red Cross have donated money and clothes to him and his wife, and he said he’s grateful just to be alive after the fire.

“God was with us,” he said. “He saved both of us.”

The couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary on Tuesday, he said.

What remains of the couple’s trailer needs to be moved by the end of the month, Daniels said, so she and her husband, Todd Daniels, have been trying to tear it down and transport the wreckage to the Montezuma County Landfill. But she said their trailer isn’t big enough to handle all the material left behind by the fire, and bringing it to the landfill is more than a two-person job. They’re looking for volunteers with larger trailers, or just enough free time to help with the work of tearing down the wreckage.

Gary Nicholas thanked the Danielses for their help. He said he doesn’t feel he and his wife need anything, other than a new place to live, but that he is thankful for any support from their neighbors.

“This is a misfortune thing, but it reminds me of the story of Job in the Bible,” he said. “I still have faith in God, that there will be some kind of a meaning to this.”

Daniels said anyone wanting to help the Nicholases can contact her at 407-489-2389.

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