2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Rebuilding in Black Forest

Published: July 1, 2013, 2:36 pm, by Ryan Handy

Within two weeks of being allowed into their neighborhoods, Black Forest residents have pulled 198 debris removal/demolition permits, according to the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

As with the Waldo Canyon fire, the department is keeping a database of permit activity in the Black Forest burn area, that will eventually track everything done on each lot, whether it be debris removal or gas line repair.

The Black Forest neighborhood was and is vastly different from Mountain Shadows, the neighborhood heavily affected by the Waldo Canyon fire. While Mountain Shadows is on private land and city land, the entirety of the Black Forest burn area is on county land, which means that several agencies must juggle the responsibilities of rebuilding–including the county zoning department, the Black Forest Fire Department, two utilities companies, and the county health department.

There were also more homes destroyed by the Black Forest fire, 511, than by the Waldo Canyon fire, which destroyed 347. The homes are further apart; many properties had “many, many many outbuildings,” said Bob Croft, where residents kept livestock for example.

El Paso County has decided to allow residents to move temporarily back onto their properties in RVs, but the county has yet to iron out how those people will get electricity and water, for example. Other residents have requested to put modular units on their properties where they can live.

All of these elements¬† give the Black Forest recovery “its own dynamic,” Croft said. Check out the building department’s list of permit activity.