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  • Flood awareness meetings next week

    Fri, May 31, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The city of Colorado Springs will be hosting two flood awareness meetings for westside residents who live in the North and South Douglas Creek flood plains.

    If you’re not sure if you live in a flood plain, check out these preliminary maps released last week, and look up your address. There are separate maps for the each of the creeks, including camp creek.

    There are two meetings, one for residents and the other for business owners:


    Residents – North and South Douglas Creeks

    Tuesday, June 4

    6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

    Front Range Alliance Church

    5210 Centennial Blvd.


    Businesses – North and South Douglas Creeks

    Thursday, June 6

    1:00 – 3:00 p.m.

    El Paso County Citizens Service Center, Room 1020

    1675 West Garden of the Gods Rd.

  • Teller County burn ban in effect

    Fri, May 31, 2013 by Ryan Handy with 1 comment

    Most Colorado counties do not have burn bans in effect right now, but there are a few, including Teller County, that do.

    Teller County’s ban was activated about a week ago, according to the county’s website. Read more about the restrictions here. 

    Here’s are the basics of the burn ban:

    • You can burn “materials” that in an incinerator, outdoor fireplace, barbecue, grill or pit.
    • You cannot use explosives, fireworks of any type, model rockets, welding or operating torches with open flames in an outdoor location.
    • You can use a barbecue pit, but it must be at least 10 feet away from combustible walls, roofs or other combustible materials (think: wood fences, wood piles, etc…)
    • You can use campfires. Fires must be contained in a pit that is at least 25 feet away from structures or other combustible material. Pits should be three feet in diameter, and at least 18 inches deep. You must have a method on-hand for extinguishing the fire.
    • You cannot burn rubbish–paper, garbage, trash, waste foods, etc–in Teller County.

    Take a look at the statewide burn bans in effect, by county:

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  • Help create The Gazette’s Waldo Scrapbook

    Thu, May 30, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    UPDATE: Our technical difficulties with the waldo@gazette.com address are resolved! But, if you’re still having issues email me,  ryan.handy@gazette.com.

    Be a part of The Gazette’s special coverage of the Waldo Canyon fire anniversary, and share with us your memories of the fire that changed our community.

    We are putting together a Waldo Scrapbook to post on our website. We want your photos, videos, short written memories — anything that commemorates your experience of the fire.

    The scrapbook is open to anyone with thoughts or memories to share. Please send your scrapbook submissions to waldo@gazette.com. Give us your name, where you live, and a few sentences that explain what you sent and why.

  • Looking back: A disastrous June

    Tue, May 28, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Ramah tornado

    Last June was a transformative time for Colorado Springs–the Waldo Canyon fire, the most destructive in state history, burned over 18,000 acres and destroyed 347 homes.

    But, the catastrophic wildfire was hardly the only destructive force to hit El Paso County last summer. Remember that hail storm on June 6? And the tornado in Ramah?

    Gazette reporter Matt Steiner did a great look-back at last June, and all the challenges that it brought to county residents.

    Read the story here.

  • Cost of wildfire recovery in Colorado

    Tue, May 28, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    County commissioners from El Paso and Larimer Counties will be meeting tomorrow in Denver to discuss the state of wildfire recovery projects and efforts for the Waldo Canyon and High Park fire burn scars.

    El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, whose district encompasses acres of burned forest as well as Mountain Shadows, will be attending the meeting. In an email, Clark said the meeting should be mostly for planning and funding for future projects. Clark also passed along a great list of the current projects underway in El Paso County.

    Based on a round-up of the costs of recovery efforts in both counties, it looks like El Paso is coming out on top.

    Here are some highlights:

    • Thus far, recovery efforts for El Paso County have reached $10,564,833. That compares to $9,199,941 in Larimer.
    • Of all the agencies involved in recovery, the U.S. Forest Service has the most expensive of the various recovery projects, costing $5,631,869.
    • A large amount of money for recovery and flood prevention projects came to the city of Colorado Springs through a Colorado Fire Relief Fund grant.
    • The city of Manitou Springs spent $18,750 on emergency alert sirens.

    I’m working on a way to attach the spreadsheet, which lists all the costs. More to come.


  • FedEx awards grant to wildfire recovery group

    Tue, May 21, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    In honor of a $30,000 grant from FedEx to the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP), a non-profit group helping with wildfire recovery here, FedEx workers and CUSP volunteers will be working together in the Waldo Canyon burn scar this Friday on flood mitigation projects.

    From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday some Colorado Springs firefighters will join the volunteer efforts, which will focus on removing debris from flood paths, filling and placing sandbags,  and planting grass seeds within the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  This is the second restoration project for local FedEx employees–last week, FedEx workers volunteered with Rocky Mountain Field Institute with burn scar rehabilitation, as well.

    CUSP has several projects going on this week that need volunteers. All you have to do visit the group’s website and register for one of the projects, including the FedEx event on Friday.



  • Two USFS studies highlight fire impacts in urban zones

    Fri, May 17, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Two recent studies from the U.S. Forest Service discuss how wildfires affect and change urban communities. Both are more or less compendiums of decades of study and approach things from fire survivors’ perspectives.

    The first study, “Social Science at the Wildland-Urban Interface,” looks at the social impacts of wildfire–how a devastating fire has psychological consequences for communities, and how homeowners learn from wildfire experiences and change their practices.

    Some highlights:

    • Most homeowners in the wildland urban interface know the dangers that wildfires pose to their neighborhoods. But, awareness of the risk doesn’t always translate into homeowners taking action, such as doing mitigation on their properties. Often many have a “lightning strikes once” perspective, as in, this happened once, why would it happen again? Also, most homeowners who live in risk zones, but who have never experienced wildfire, wait until a wildfire hits to take precautions.
    • Community perceptions of how wildfires were managed by firefighters or local governments have long-lasting impacts. Sometimes, a wildfire brings a community closer together; other times, it creates tension and drives a community apart. Communication during the fire is key to this–the more people know, the better they feel. 
    • Psychological impacts of surviving a fire are equally long-lasting. Home loss, smoke damage, and permanently transformed landscapes all contribute.
    • Are their alternatives to mandatory evacuations? The report considers how residents handle being driven out of their homes for days (not always well) and the incredible angst they might feel wondering if their homes have survived. Australia allows residents to fight brush fires, and also allows residents to seek shelter in their homes from flames.
    • A few things are on residents’ mind after a fire, and first among them (according to researchers) is the cause of the wildfire. Officials have not yet released the cause of the Waldo Canyon fire. 

    The second report, “Wildfires, Wildlands, and People: Understanding and Preparing for Wildfire in the Urban Interface,” is pretty self-explanatory. It looks at some of the same aspects as the first report–for instance, what motivates people to prepare for wildfires–and also notes the growing number of homes in the danger zone. It also talks about the delicate balance of wildfires–fire is a key component to many ecosystems, but it is also proving more and more devastating to humans.

    Some highlights:

    • 32 percent of homes in the United States are in the wildland urban interface.
    • Wildfires serious impact home values. Studies have found that up to two years following a destructive wildfire, the values of the surviving home are lower.
    • More people are moving into the wildland urban interface–something researchers have know for a while. But this report posits something new–that as Baby Boomers start to retire, more of them will be seeking off-the-beaten-path locales, in fire-prone areas, spiking the numbers of residents in the interface.

    If you’re into reading more about fires and fire science, I suggest you sign up for the Joint Fire Science Program eblasts–they don’t come very often, but when they do, they point great out studies, like these, on wildfire. Sign up for emails on the program’s website, on the right hand side of the screen. 


  • Chipping in northwest Colorado Springs next week

    Fri, May 17, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The Colorado Springs Fire Department chipping crew will be hitting the streets of the Hunters Point, Oak Valley, Comstock, Perfect View and Northface neighborhoods next week to offer chipping services.

    Chipping services are free and are meant to grind up the refuse of wildfire mitigation. So, if you’ve cut down any trees, shrubbery or trimmed branches all in the name of wildfire mitigation, sign up for the chipper.

    Go here to sign up for chipping services. If you’d like to know if your home is in a wildfire danger zone, check out this map. You can also call 719-385-7342 to set up a chipping appointment and ask questions.



  • Wildfire drill for Upper Skyway residents this Saturday

    Thu, May 16, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Residents of the southwestern Colorado Springs Upper Skyway neighborhood will be participating in a wildfire drill on Saturday morning.

    Here’s the schedule for the drill:

    • 8:45 a.m. : Door-to-door evacuation notifications.
    • 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.: Actual evacuations.
    • 10 a. m. : Discussion with residents, Colorado Springs Police and Fire Departments about the drill.

    If you can, avoid Cresta Road during the evacuation. For more information about how to prepare to evacuate–what to take, where to go, etc.–check out the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office “Ready, Set, Go!” page.

    And don’t forget that Saturday is also a free sandbag pick up day for residents impacted by the Waldo Canyon fire. You can pick up free, filled sandbags at 30th Street and Garden of the Gods Road, at the Verizon building parking lot.  Pick-up is from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., or until supplies last.





  • We’re still in a drought. What’s new?

    Thu, May 16, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Every Thursday, the National Drought Mitigation Center (yes, it exists) issues a nationwide drought wrap-up. And…El Paso County is still in the red.

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    Today’s drought prognosis is still pretty grim for  the rest Colorado, although much of the state benefited from two weeks of recent rains. But, southeastern Colorado including El Paso County, are turning out to be problem zones.

    El Paso County is on the fringes of the red zone–which means most of the county is in an extreme drought, the second-to-worst level.

    (In case you’re not sure which county is El Paso, this should help you out.)

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