2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • La Foret launches “Black Forest Strong” project

    Fri, June 28, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The La Foret historic retreat, which was spared by the Black Forest fire, will become a Community Resource Center for a new recovery organization, Black Forest Strong.

    This Saturday the new group will launch a seven step recovery plan for residents impacted by the fire, which burned 511 homes and killed two people in early June.

    Aspects of the plan, according to news release from Black Forest Strong:

    1) Preserve pristine forest by placing 430 acres of property on a conservation easement
    2) Opening a Community Resource Center
    3) Offering Mitigation Training & Services to Community
    4) Providing Grief Counseling
    5) Reseeding Efforts in Black Forest
    6) Organizing Community Based Events
    7) Providing Direct Aid to Victims

    The first day of service, Saturday June 29, will be at 58590 Burgess Road, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

     

     
  • BLM seeks input on forest thinning proposal

    Wed, June 26, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The Bureau of Land Management is seeking public input on its Iron Mountain Fuelwood Sale project, that aims to thin the forest, restore some wildlife habitats, and even create jobs.

    The project targets 65 acres in Fremont County, just 7.5 miles southeast of Texas Creek. The area is densely packed with pinyon and ponderosa pines, about 300 trees per acre; forest managers would like to take that down to 50 to 100 trees an acre.

    Densely packed forests are fire hazards as well as easy targets for lethal bark beetles.

    All comments on the project must be submitted by July 12. They can be emailed, BLM_CO_RG_Comments@blm.gov, with “Iron Mountain Fuelwood Sale” in the subject line, or mailed to the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office, 3028 East Main, Cañon City, CO 81212.

    BLM cautions that any personal information offered in the letters or email could be made public.  Commenters can request that BLM withhold their comment from public viewing, but there is not guarantee that the agency will be able to do so.

     

  • Mountain Shadows celebration on Wednesday

    Tue, June 25, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Mountain Shadows residents will be getting together on Wednesday to celebrate the rebirth of Mountain Shadows, the community hit by the Waldo Canyon fire last summer. The community event, which has been in the works for months, is also a tribute to the Black Forest fire survivors, who are welcome to attend.

    Several things will be going on, including dinner, and live music. The park will be the eventual site of the Mountain Shadows Park memorial, dedicated to Bill and Barbara Everett, who died in last summer’s fire.

    Food will be provided by Flying W Ranch–the ranch’s classic chuck wagon dinner. There will be live music from the Flying W Wranglers, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, Mango fan Django (gypsy jazz), and the  Colorado Springs  Children’s Chorale.

    The show starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Those residents who live nearby are encouraged to bike or walk to Mountain Shadows Park,  at Flying W Ranch Road between Ramsgate and Champagne Drive. Those who drive can park at the Verizon building, Garden of the Gods Rd. and 30th St, and take a free shuttle to the park.

  • The “undocumented and unprecedented” West Fork fire. What does that mean?

    Tue, June 25, 2013 by Ryan Handy with 4 comments

    On Friday, Eric Morgan made national headlines when he claimed that the ravenous West Fork Complex fire is “undocumented and unprecedented.”

    That night, the fire was expected to burn into the town of South Fork, and consume it entirely.  It has yet to do that, but Morgan’s statement, as a fire behavior analyst, continues to be quoted.

    How can the West Fork fire be the most extreme fire we’ve ever seen, the kind that has never been documented?

    The answer is:  It can’t be, because it isn’t.

    I spoke with Eric Morgan (whose comments have been erroneously circulated under the name Eric Norton) and asked him to clarify what he meant.

    The West Fork fire, a complex of four separate fires, is the largest fire in known history in that part of Colorado. It is also unusual because it is burning at high elevations, between 10,000 and 11,000 feet,  something the region has also not seen before, Morgan said.

    The fire’s behavior has been extreme for several reasons, namely the heat, the wind, and the dry,  dead  Spruce forest it is burning through. 

    An unfortunate chain of natural events led to these extreme conditions–most importantly the ten-year drought plaguing the area and the mass death of Spruce trees where the fire is burning.

    In the past three years, the south central Rockies–including the La Veta, Canon City and Walsenburg areas–have been heavily hit by a Spruce beetle infestation, Morgan explained. Drought weakens trees, making them prime targets for the beetle, which burrows into the trees, cutting off their circulation and main method of getting water and nutrients from the ground.

    “In the last three years, we’ve had a Spruce beetle epidemic, which has wiped out nearly 80 percent of the trees in this area,” Morgan said.

    The fire is burning through these dead trees–which extend for thousands of acres–that have been drying for years. This is the first fire to burn through this particular area of beetle-kill, as well.

    The West Fork fire is what Morgan calls a 200 to 300 year event–meaning, that’s how often this sort of fire happens in the South Fork area. Hence why this kind of fire is undocumented in the area–mankind (at least, in South Fork, Del Norte, and Creede) has never seen the like of this fire.  But that doesn’t mean that, 200 or 300 years ago, a similar fire didn’t happen, long before mankind was capable of documenting it.

    But without that documentation, the last major fire to burn in the area was the Lime Creek fire of 1879, which burned 26,000 acres–only a fraction of the West Fork fire. West Fork is now over 70,000 acres.

    The West Fork fire maybe extreme in many ways, but all ways that firefighters have seen before. The joining of multiple fires–that happened in Yellowstone, in 1988. The beetle-kill, that has happened as well. The heat and the wind–Waldo Canyon fire experienced both of those. Nor is it  largest fire–the Hayman fire of 2002 remains the biggest in Colorado history after it burned around 138,ooo acres.

    At its peak, the West Fork fire was funneled by winds through drainages, and consumed dead Spruce trees and their highly-combustible red needles, “which made it burn like a fast moving grass fire…except it’s in big timber,” Morgan said.

    No part of the fire is contained by humans, and instead it is being boxed in by landscape.

    The West Fork consumed the driest fuels in the area, and moved on to burn other types of vegetation, such as Aspen trees, that have helped the fire to calm down, Morgan said. Still, days after its start, the fire is still uncontained.  It is also burning through steep mountain terrain, that firefighters cannot access.

     

  • In case you missed it: Waldo Canyon fire interactive timeline

    Tue, June 25, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    This week is the year anniversary of the Waldo Canyon fire, which until the Black Forest fire was the most destructive in state history. It burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes and killed two people.

    Reporter Dave Philipps put together this interactive satellite view of the burn area which gives some great perspective on how the fire burned. I provide some brief narration that will walk you through the major events of the fire.

    It’s connected to a timeline that follows the city through this June.

    Watch it here.

  • Disaster Assistance Center to open second location Tuesday

    Mon, June 24, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center will be opening a field office closer to Black Forest at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. The office will be at The Classical Academy, near Pikes Peak College, at 12201 Cross Peak View. The field office hours will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

    Organizations present at the field office:   Mountain View Electric, Black Hills Energy, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, El Paso County Development Services, the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association, El Paso County Public Health., El Paso County Environmental Services, and Samaritans Purse.

    Major insurance companies will be there as well.

    The main center is still at the El Paso County Citizens Service Center, at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road,  and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday June 24 through Friday June 28.

    This main office will close permanently on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m.

     

     

  • We know that’s smoke. Now, where’s it coming from?

    Thu, June 20, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Step outside right now and you’re likely to get a mouthful full of campfire. Although El Paso County’s fires are almost extinguished, smoke from fires to our north and southwest are currently blanketing the Pikes Peak region.

    Take a look at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s smoke map, that charts location of wildfires and the paths of their smoke. The darker the shaded circles, the more intense the smoke. The map is live, and updates everyday.

    Check out the map here.

    There are currently seven active fires in Colorado. Take a look at this map pulled together by Bill Gabbert, author of the blog, “Wildfire Today.”

     

  • Where’s that smoke coming from?

    Tue, June 11, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    That’s right, you guessed it–the haze blurring the Front Range horizon is from wildfire smoke.

    The smoke appears to be from three fires in New Mexico, according to smoke detection maps from the National Weather Service. It could also be coming from a blaze that started this morning near the Royal Gorge–read more about that here

    Take a look at where the smoke is moving:

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    The smoke pattern should change throughout the day, so keep checking this website for updates. 

    The National Weather Service has also issued a Red Flag warning for much of Colorado. That means that we are in “critical fire conditions”–so high temperatures, high winds…all in all, tinder-box conditions. Red Flag warnings are issued on a daily basis; take a look at today’s warning, below.

    Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 1.50.06 PM

  • Sylvia Price remembers her garden

    Mon, June 10, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Sylvia Price lived on Linger Way in Mountain Shadows for nineteen years. 

    When her home burned down she lost, among many things, her beloved garden. For her Waldo Scrapbook submission, Sylvia sent us photos of her garden:

    The pictures are the before and after of my garden.  A garden that I loved spending time in and put many, many hours of labor into it, mostly correcting my own mistakes.

    After the fire, Sylvia and her husband moved out to Florida, and chose to start their lives again somewhere else.

    The move has not been easy for me, I left behind a ton of friends and those beautiful mountains.

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    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.

  • Keep sending us your Waldo Scrapbook submissions!

    Wed, June 5, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Shauna Hoey, a resident of Parkside, sent us a series of poems and songs about her home, which she lost during the Waldo Canyon fire.

    Here’s one of Shauna’s songs:

    Mountain Shadows Prayer

    The trees tell the story of a fire roaring through.  Beautiful trees once standing now skeletons remain.

    Ribbon of Your presence, come to this place.  Find Your way through the ashes to touch this parched place.  Touch each pile of rubble with your sweet embrace.  Bring beauty from the ashes.  Let it be a song of grace. 

    We are broken hearted, torn from so much loss.  As we sift through the ashes and stand upon this loss.   Staring at the rubble, nothing to say, searching for a treasure does anything remain?

    Ribbon of your presence, wind your way around our hearts, for our emptiness screams anguish as we reach to touch what’s lost.  May the memories that haunt us turn to treasures to hold dear. 

    We are broken hearted, seared from so much grief.  As we begin a chapter of building something new, excavate the darkness and heal our hearts anew. 

    Ribbon of your presence as you restore this broken place, may the beauty from the ashes be the song to declare Your grace.

    Shauna Hoey    2012           

    We already have several great photos from local photographers and Mountain Shadows residents commemorating the fire. Here’s what we’re looking for:

    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.