2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Federal loan assistance center opens in Manitou Springs

    Wed, September 4, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The U.S. Small Business Administration has opened a center aimed at helping residents recover from flash flooding last month in Manitou Springs.

    The outreach center, which is housed at the ManitouSpringsCity Hall, 606 Manitou Ave., will feature representatives from the administration who can help people apply for low-interest federal disaster loans. It will close at 5 p.m. on Sept. 12.

    Loans are available for a wide range of people affected by the Aug. 9 flood, which came rushing down Waldo and Williams canyons, killing one person and damaging dozens of homes and businesses. Homeowners, renter, business owners and officials from nonprofit organizations can apply, the administration said in a release.

    Residents must apply for property damage claims by Oct. 29, and economic injury applications are due May 30. To apply, visit https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

  • Volunteer flood clean-up day in Black Forest

    Fri, August 9, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Outdoor Colorado is hosting a volunteer clean-up even in Black Forest Regional Park on Saturday, Aug. 10. More than 100 volunteers are already planning to help with a repair and restoration project to stabilize a drainage basin in the park. The project is designed to minimize erosion and the flow of debris from the burn scar into other areas of the park.

    Sleep Giant Industries has donated 50 pallets of mulch to the project, and will be working with volunteers on Saturday as well. The project will cover three acres. The park is at 4800 Shoup Road, and has 427 acres including grassy area, tennis courts, a playground and picnic grounds. All of the parks facilities survived the Black Forest fire but now face flash flood danger.

    There will also be a Saturday seminar on rebuilding and repairing damaged homes with a focus on energy and water efficiency. The Saturday seminar, hosted by Colorado Renewable Energy Society, will be the first of two–the second is on Oct. 5.

    Saturday’s seminar will be at Edith Woldford Elementary School, 13710 Black Forest Road, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The seminar is an expanded version of talks given to Mountain Shadows homeowners last summer; it will address the basics of home energy and water efficiency and energy efficient heating and cooling, among others.  The talks will include specific information about efficient energy initiatives from Black Hills Energy and Mountain View Electric Association.

    For more information contact Jim Riggins, 719-313-6171. Information can also be found at secres.org/events/blackforest.html

  • Plant give-away for Mountain Shadows this Saturday

    Wed, July 31, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    Colorado Springs Together has helped organize a give-away of native perennials for Mountain Shadows residents

    Southwest Farms, Inc. from Pueblo has donated 6,000 perennial plants and ornamental grasses. Residents can pick them up on Saturday at the Woodmen Valley Chapel at 290 East Woodmen Road. Plant pick up will be from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.


  • El Paso County Long Range Recovery meeting tonight

    Wed, July 31, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The El Paso County Commissioners have their monthly Black Fores Fire Long Range Recovery meeting tonight, July 31. The county has divided the tasks of recovery into subcommittees, which will report their findings on Wednesday night.

    Residents are encouraged to attend the meeting to get the latest updates on fire recovery,  as well as ask questions. Read more about the meeting, as well as the latest updates on the FEMA grants.

    The meeting will be from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at The Tent at New Life Church, 11035 Voyager Parkway 80921.

    Also, on Thursday night, the insurance  non-profit United Policyholders will host another workshop on insurance. The workshop will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at The Pinery, 12375 Black Forest Road.




  • U.S. Forest Service seeking public comment of Waldo Canyon erosion control projects

    Fri, July 19, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The U.S. Forest has opened up a 30-day long public comment period on its Waldo Fire Area Sediment Control project, which will be constructing sediment basins, log erosion barriers and bolstering culverts throughout the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar.

    The project will span 2,000 acres, and aims to prevent mudslides and debris flow down the mountain–such as the community of Manitou Springs has seen over the past two weeks.

    All comments or questions about the project can be sent be letters, emails or messages. Please send comments to:

    Mike Picard, Project NEPA Coordinator

    San Isabel National Forest

    5575 Cleora Road, Salida, CO


    Phone: 719-530-3959

    Fax: 719-539-3593

    Email: mpicard@fs.fed.us, please reference “Waldo Fire Area Sediment Control Comments” in the subject line.

  • What a 50-year-old burn scar looks like

    Mon, July 8, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    No two wildfire burn scars are exactly alike, and how burned lands recover can depend upon how they are rehabilitated. 

    While I was hiking in Taos, New Mexico this weekend I came across an old burn scar, from the Vinateria fire in 1967, that shocked me: From faraway, it looked barely regrown, after 46 years.

    The landscape in the area was rugged, rocky, and dry. The forest was piñon. I haven’t been able to find out any information about the actual fire itself, but I doubt there was much done to rehabilitate the land, such as the Coalition for the Upper South Platte has done for  the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar.

    Take a look at the burn scar, only a small portion (to the right of the sign):



    And here’s a closer look:

    Screen Shot 2013-07-08 at 2.55.36 PM


  • Updated Black Forest damage numbers expected soon

    Mon, July 8, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    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).


  • Free insurance workshop next week for Black Forest residents

    Wed, July 3, 2013 by Ryan Handy with 2 comments

    El Paso County will host free insurance help workshop next week lead by United Policyholders, a non-profit insurance advocacy group that has given workshops to victims of the Waldo Canyon, High Park and Four Mile Canyon fires.

    The workshop will be on July 8, and starts at 6 p.m. at Woodmen Valley Chapel, 8292 Woodmen Valley View in Colorado Springs. The workshop is titled “Roadmap to Recovery,” and no commercial solicitations will be allowed, according to a news release from El Paso County. Those who attend the workshop will get free organizers, handbooks and flash drives to help them organize their insurance documents.

    Steve Price, a Mountain Shadows resident who lost his home in the Waldo Canyon fire, will also share tips for putting together an inventory of lost contents as well as tips for rebuilding decisions. Amy Bach, co-founder of United Policyholders, will go over some insurance basics, including what to expect during the claims process, common problems and how to avoid them, and where to look for advice and help. For more information about United Policyholders, visit www.uphelp.org/BlackForestFire.

  • Black Forest assistance center closing Wednesday

    Tue, July 2, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    The Black Forest fire Disaster Assistance Center will close permanently at 6 p.m. on July 3 due to steadily decreasing attendance by homeowners, according to news release from El Paso County.

    Instead of going to the center, homeowners have been getting information at the Black Forest Fire Long Range Recovery Planning Committee and other public meetings that have targeted debris removal, insurance and other issues.

    The assistance center’s phone banks will still be operating until further notice. Residents can call 444-5301 or visit www.BFFassistance.com to get more recovery information.
    Those who wish to volunteer in the recovery effort can sign up at www.HelpColoradoNow.org. Donations can be made to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation at www.ppcf.org.

  • Rebuilding in Black Forest

    Mon, July 1, 2013 by Ryan Handy with no comments

    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.