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A Look Back at the Black Forest Fire

I recently went to visit a friend who lives near the Black Forest area that was devastated by a wildfire this past summer.  The June 2013 Black Forest Fire was deeply traumatic for the area because it was the second straight year that the Springs region had to face a massive wildfire with the city still recovering from the June 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire.  I first saw the smoke from the Black Forest Fire while outside the office eating lunch with some co-workers.  Later on that day people at the office who lived in the Black Forest area began to get phone calls and left work to get to their homes.  Because of what was going on we finished work early and I decided to drive to the eastern outskirts of town to get a good look at the fire:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

I could tell it was pretty bad and hoped the firefighters would get it under control overnight.  However, from my backyard that evening I could tell that the smoke was not getting any better and this could end up being really bad:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

The next day the east side of Springs was just engulfed in smoke and everyone knew that this fire was going to cause massive property damage.  It smelled like I was sitting near a campfire though I was at work.  Over lunch I decided to drive over to Palmer Park to eat my lunch and get away from the smoke for awhile.  From the park I ended up having a pretty good view of how bad this fire was.  From an overlook at Palmer Park the fire actually appeared to be two large fires:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

As I would later see on the news the fire had spread into various different fires and was not just one big inferno.  Later on that day during my drive home I stopped and took these next two pictures from Woodman Road:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

The fire was huge and it was distressing to see the various black smoke clouds pop up because those were a sign that somebody’s home was burning:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

It was incredibly sad to see especially when I had people I worked with who were refugees from the fire and had no idea if their homes survived or not.  Luckily for my co-workers none of them lost their homes, but they all had smoke or minor fire damage of some kind.

After stopping by my friend’s house I decided to drive through the area to see how well it is recovering from the wildfire that burned nearly 500 homes and charred over 14,000 acres of woodland in the area.  When I first drove into the Black Forest on Shoup Road from Highway 83, the fire damage was hardly noticeable.  It really wasn’t until I arrived in the actual village of Black Forest that the damage was clearly visible.  It appeared that Shoup Road was used as a fire break by the firefighters and saved a lot of homes along the road.  However, along Black Forest Road there was a lot of forest and property damage that could be seen:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

The devastation in some areas was so complete that the whole land was being logged and left barren:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

The saddest thing to see was the lots that were empty where a home had burned down:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

This had to be incredibly shocking for the people that lost their homes in this fire.  It was kind of amazing though to see how some homes were burned down while other ones nearby were some how saved:

Picture from the Black Forest Fire

After driving through the area it seems to me that as bad as the fire was it could have been much worse considering the number of homes that were not burned and the amount of acreage that was saved.  So I think that is a credit to the firefighters and other authorities that responded to stop this massive blaze.

People in Springs still often talk about the fire because just like the Waldo Canyon Fire it was human caused and still no one knows who did it.  There are lot of rumors about who started the fires that range from a barbeque catching fire, kids playing with matches, meth lab gone bad, and even Al Qaeda terrorists.  Yes I have heard them all.  Today the issue who started the fire has received new attention because of the big spat between the Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey and the El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.  There appears to be some serious bad blood between these two because Maketa’s response to Harvey’s claims that an arsonist may be on the loose in the Springs was a deeply personal attack.  Here is an excerpt:

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

He does not know the point of origin and has been less than truthful about other circumstances with this disaster and just may be merely covering his own mishandling of this event in an attempt to avoid responsibility for allowing the fire to get out of hand. Furthermore, this Chief didn’t even know homes were burning at a time several were engulfed and never even requested evacuations of nearby households as the fire rapidly grew out of control, clearly placing citizen’s safety in jeopardy.  [KKTV.com]

You can read Maketa’s whole statement at the KKTV link, but just the personal tone of the statement leads me to believe that these two do not like each other.  I have no idea who is telling the truth on this, but I just hope authorities can work together to catch whoever started these fires.  I would hate to have June 2014 roll around and once again have the region dealing with yet another massive human caused wildfire.

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