2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Updated Black Forest damage numbers expected soon

Published: July 8, 2013, 12:12 pm, by Ryan Handy

After weeks of assessments, the El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman expects to release on Monday updated numbers of damage wrought by the Black Forest fire.

Lowderman expects  to update the numbers of homes and outbuildings destroyed by the fire. His damage assessment also includes trees, he said.

The assessor’s office has re-done the work that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office did in assessing the number of homes destroyed by the fire, now at 511.  But, the initial damage assessment was complicated by many destroyed outbuildings, mobile homes, and actual dwellings. Some structures burned on properties and left little indication of what they had been–if they had been primary residences or not.

The analysis was solid, but the records the assessor requires had to be more comprehensive.

“For lack of a better word, the analysis we made was with a sharper pencil,” Lowderman said on Monday.

Lowderman expects that the final number of destroyed homes will be close to the sheriff’s office total, he said. He did not know if the total would be more or less than 511.

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department has also been doing assessments, and has created a database that tracks the progress of demolition and debris removal on each lot that was affected by the fire. The number of destroyed homes has fluctuated, said Roger Lovell,  a deputy building official with the department.

“It had been up to 550,” he said of the number. “It’s so hard to tell. A contractor called me to say that he moved a new modular onto a site (in Black Forest). The fire came through and destroyed it. So was that a house or not? How it did get counted? It’s just really hard to differentiate just what a dwelling is.”

The Regional Building Department did not tally destroyed outbuildings, something that the assessor’s office did. As of Monday, 263 permits had been pulled in the fire area, representing anything from demolition to gas meter work, according to the regional building department’s database (click here to check out the database).