• We all need tee shirts saying: “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain”

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Millions watched on television nationwide June 26, 2012, as Mountain Shadows was incinerated by the inferno known as the Waldo Canyon fire.

    Millions watched on television nationwide June 26, 2012, as Mountain Shadows was incinerated by the inferno known as the Waldo Canyon fire.

    Disasters are a very real part of life in Colorado Springs.  Things here burn. And flood. And they slide down mountainsides. And once in a while things shake. We even get the occasional twister.  Today’s special pull-out section of The Gazette shows how locals can prepare for the disasters that can strike in the Pikes Peak region. Please, read it carefully.

    Take heed to the warnings. There’s plenty of history that teaches us bad things do happen. And with some regularity. 

    To know this, you don’t have to be a history expert. I have learned this lesson pretty well after 20 years living in the foothills in the Rockrimmon neighborhood.

     Like thousands of you, I found myself running for my life on June 26, 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire collided with a thunderstorm creating a massive, swirling column of hellfire that roared down the foothills into Mountain Shadows, threatening to incinerate much of northern Colorado Springs.

    Two people died that night and 347 homes were destroyed. It was shocking. People are still rebuilding from what was declared the worst fire in Colorado history.

    Houses in Mountain Shadows burn on June 26, 2012. By Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette

    Houses in Mountain Shadows burn on June 26, 2012. Gazette file photo

    And most of you know, the fire surrendered that title a year later when the unincorporated community of Black Forest ignited last June, killing two more people, destroying 488 homes and burning 14,280 acres beyond the north border of Colorado Springs.

    Of course, these catastrophes were compounded by flash floods that swept tons of rock and debris from the charred mountainsides down U.S. 24, carrying away motorists in raging torrents of black floodwaters, wrecking businesses and homes in Manitou Springs and in communities up and down Ute Pass. The rains also caused flooding in Black Forest and across the region, leaving at least four dead.

    With this mayhem, death and destruction all around us, I’m amazed at the poor attendance I’ve seen at community meetings held to educate folks about preparing for the worst. I’ve sat in auditoriums where the emergency services experts outnumbered the members of the public in the audience.

    Thankfully, more folks have turned out at recent meetings. That’s good because people need to stay informed because it will be years before we can relax.

    These disasters were not fluke occurrences. We’ve had conflagrations going back to 1854 when a wildfire reportedly started on Cheyenne Mountain, burned about 50 miles west through Divide and Lake George to Wilkerson Pass in Park County and started burning back again before winter snow finally put it out.

    Fire destroyed much of downtown Colorado Springs when a trash fire in the rail yards ignited a railcar full of explosive powder Oct. 2, 1898.

    John Schnake walks past a sandbag wall at a neighbors house that is just above his home on the east side of Highway 24 in Cascade. The sandbags were placed there by volunteers working with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and in places the sandbags are twelve high and seven sandbags wide. Schnake said he's hopeful that the sandbags will divert 98 percent of the water that might flow down from the burn scar above the homes. "Think of it as a funnel and I live at the bottom of the funnel," he said. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    John Schnake walks past a sandbag wall at a neighbors house that is just above his home on the east side of Highway 24 in Cascade. The sandbags were placed there by volunteers working with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) and in places the sandbags are twelve high and seven sandbags wide. Schnake said he’s hopeful that the sandbags will divert 98 percent of the water that might flow down from the burn scar above the homes. “Think of it as a funnel and I live at the bottom of the funnel,” he said.
    Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

    And on Jan. 17, 1950, a blaze erupted on Cheyenne Mountain and burned east through Camp Carson, killing eight soldiers and a 14-year-old boy who skipped classes at West Junior High to join the fight. The fire consumed 50 square miles of Cheyenne Mountain and Camp Carson, seriously injured more than 30 soldiers and destroyed 92 buildings.

    I heard, firsthand, some of the horror stories from that fire, which started after midnight, reportedly when wind gusts estimated at 100 mph ignited smoldering brush piles left by crews clearing the land for new golf courses at The Broadmoor hotel.

    In 2002 I interviewed survivor Charles “Bud” Burrill, then 71, who was a private at Camp Carson when the fire erupted. He told me he still had flashbacks whenever he heard news of someone burned in a fire. He was reminded of agonizing months he spent in a hospital with third-degree burns to his face, hand and legs. He was burned driving another soldier to the hospital in thick smoke and their Jeep drove into a ravine where a bridge had burned away.

    “My face went right into the fire,” Burrill told me in 2002. “I remember seeing these red ashes. It about burnt my face off. My right hand was real deep in the ashes. I pulled my hand out and all the skin fell off.”

    An estimated 5,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers fought the blaze, which burned hot for almost 24 hours and smoldered for weeks until a heavy snowfall extinguished lingering hot spots.

    Besides historic fires, the region has endured rains and flooding of biblical proportions, including the Memorial Day flood of 1935 that killed upwards of 18 people according to various reports, destroyed every bridge over Monument and Fountain creeks but the one at Bijou Street and did $1.7 million in damage.

    A mailbox and chimney were the only things left of Ted Robertson's home after the Black Forest fire roared through his property. Courtesy Ted Robertson.

    A mailbox and chimney were the only things left of Ted Robertson’s home after the Black Forest fire roared through his property. Courtesy Ted Robertson.

    A second major flood in 1965 killed two children, washed out roads and bridges, and caused millions of dollars in damage.

    Those heavy rains in July 1965 also sent boulders and debris cascading down on the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, destroying the ape house and damaging the hippo house. Boulders also blocked the entrances of NORAD, the military space complex burrowed inside Cheyenne Mountain during the Cold War to watch for missile and air attacks on North America. Landslides also gashed Interstate 25 south of the city at the time.

    But there’s far more to worry about than fire and rain. There have been blizzards that buried the region including a March 11, 1909, storm that pounded Colorado Springs with 26.5 inches of snow. Locusts infested the region in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl era.

    In December 1995, a late-night earthquake measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale shook the Broadmoor neighborhood. The quake was pinpointed on the southern end of the Oil Creek Fault, one of two Cheyenne Mountain earthquake faults.

    And in the 1980s and ’90s, slowly sliding hillside land damaged homes across the city. In 2000, a warning by state geologists prompted a multimillion-dollar federal buyout and the demolition of 13 homes in an active 200-acre landslide in the Broadmoor area.

    As for tornadoes, two rated EF3 or higher, with winds in excess of 135 mph, have hit El Paso County in recent years. The first was in 1977 while the second, in 1979, dropped into Manitou Springs causing one injury and significant damage.

    A lone firefighter tries to stop the spread of the Black Forest fire. Photo by Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

    A lone firefighter tries to stop the spread of the Black Forest fire. Photo by Jerilee Bennett / The Gazette

    Have I gotten your attention yet? The point is not to scare everyone into moving away. Instead, I urge everyone to pay attention. When experts say to avoid expansive soils, or to landscape to protect against water and debris flows, or to thin trees to protect against wildfire, please listen and act.

    Take seriously the experts’ urging to plan for evacuation. Pack a bag and keep it ready for escape. Talk to your kids about how to react, who to call, where to run in the event of disaster.

    Get a weather radio that can alert you, day and night, to imminent threats of flood or dangerous weather.

    Compile important documents and keepsakes in a fire safe or container so you can quickly grab it, stuff it in your car and run.

    I remember wishing I’d done that when the ash and embers of the Waldo Canyon fire were choking the air and floating down on our Rockrimmon neighborhood.

    Our evacuation would have been a tad less pulse-pounding if I didn’t have to take the time to videotape the contents of the house we were leaving behind. I remember wishing I’d been better prepared and cursing the things I’d forgotten when I finally reached our safe haven.

    Don’t repeat my mistakes. Be prepared.

    I’ve covered plenty of disasters. I’ve seen the heartbreak of the victims. I’ve even packed everything I could in my Jeep and run for my life. Haven’t we all learned our lessons?

    The Black Forest fire was an estimated 2,500 degrees when it reached Judy von Ahlefeldt's home. She said her home exploded from the heat. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette

    The Black Forest fire was an estimated 2,500 degrees when it reached Judy von Ahlefeldt’s home. She said her home exploded from the heat. Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette

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  • Check out Little Free Libraries all across Colorado Springs region

    Wed, March 5, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Carolyn McMahon poses next to a Little Free Library box that her husband, Tim, gave her as a Mother's Day gift last spring. They erected it outside their home on Rossmere Street in Mountain Shadows as a gift to neighbors suffering after the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2012. The couple has enjoyed watching neighbors and strangers visit their library box and borrow books. Photo courtesy Carolyn and Tim McMahon.

    Carolyn McMahon poses next to a Little Free Library box that her husband, Tim, gave her as a Mother’s Day gift last spring. They erected it outside their home on Rossmere Street in Mountain Shadows as a gift to neighbors suffering after the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2012. The couple has enjoyed watching neighbors and strangers visit their library box and borrow books. Photo courtesy Carolyn and Tim McMahon.

    After the Waldo Canyon fire roared through Mountain Shadows in June 2012, killing two and destroying 347 homes, Carolyn and Tim McMahon wanted to do something for their neighbors on Rossmere Street and the rest of the area who lost everything.

    “We felt such grief for our neighborhood,” Carolyn said. “We wanted to do something to pull our block together a little bit.”

    Then last spring Carolyn heard about the Little Free Library program that encourages community-building simply by giving away books from a water-tight box erected in the front yard.

    “The concept is: take a book, leave a book,” Carolyn said. “For Mother’s Day, I asked my husband if we could do something for our neighborhood and put up a Little Free Library.”

    Soon, their box was erected in a grove of trees with large stepping stones leading to it. The McMahons stocked it with books from their personal library — a mix of adult and children’s books.

    Tim and Carolyn McMahon erected this Little Free Library box outside their home on Rossmere Street in Mountain Shadows as a gift to neighbors suffering after the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2012. The couple has enjoyed watching neighbors and strangers visit their library box and borrow books. Photo courtesy Carolyn and Tim McMahon.

    Tim and Carolyn McMahon erected this Little Free Library box outside their home on Rossmere Street in Mountain Shadows as a gift to neighbors suffering after the Waldo Canyon fire in June 2012. The couple has enjoyed watching neighbors and strangers visit their library box and borrow books. Photo courtesy Carolyn and Tim McMahon.

    “This was our contribution to community togetherness after the fire,” Tim said. “We wanted to give the community something to share.”

    Their library — a simple wooden box with a shelf and glass door erected on a wooden post — opened May 31 and it has been a source of joy, and books, ever since.

    “It’s fabulous,” said Carolyn, a retired elementary school librarian and kindergarten teacher. “The books have come and gone. Sometimes they never come back. And that’s OK.

    “We absolutely love it.”

    She loves looking out the window and seeing neighbors gathering at the box to chat.

    She loves seeing which books are borrowed and the new books friends and strangers bring to replace them.

    She especially loves when children and teenagers stop at the box.

    “One day, I looked out and a group of teens was out there and one of them said: ‘Look! They have Hunger Games!’ ” she said. “I love it when I see people out there. And I love meeting people there.”

    The book borrowing isn’t confined to neighbors. The McMahons have had strangers stop by and even knock on their door to ask about it.

    Little Free Library boxes are scattered around the Pikes Peak Region. Courtesy Google Maps.

    Little Free Library boxes are scattered around the Pikes Peak Region. Courtesy Google Maps.

    Then there was the construction crew that rebuilt the house next door after the fire.

    “Construction workers would go to the Little Free Library and get books,” Carolyn said with a laugh.

    She is so devoted to the library that during the winter she installed a battery-operated candle on a timer so evening patrons could visit.

    “It was getting dark at 4:30 every day and you couldn’t see inside the Little Free Library,” she said. “So I put in the candle. It came on at 4:30 and went off at 10:30. It was lovely to come home and see that little glow in the garden.”

    The McMahons are part of a growing trend nationwide and in the Pikes Peak region.

    According to the LittleFreeLibrary.org website, there are at least nine free libraries in the area from Chipita Park in Ute Pass to northern Colorado Springs to near downtown to the southside Meadows Park Community Center to the Broadmoor area.

    Some are projects of a Girl Scout troop. Others are connected to a coffee shop or business. One was erected in memory of a woman who took books to Afghanistan and died in 2013.

    Photos on the site show the Little Free Library boxes range in size and design, limited only by your imagination.

    Jacqueline and Patrick Ayers built and installed a Little Free Library box in front of their home at 1034 E. Platte Ave. last May to encourage reading and build a sense of community. They have enjoyed watching neighbors make friends and chat as they borrow and lend books at the box, which includes a painting of their cat, Gracie Slick. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Jacqueline and Patrick Ayers built and installed a Little Free Library box in front of their home at 1034 E. Platte Ave. last May to encourage reading and build a sense of community. They have enjoyed watching neighbors make friends and chat as they borrow and lend books at the box, which includes a painting of their cat, Gracie Slick. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    At the urging of reader Cheryl Solze, I visited one at 1034 E. Platte Ave. It is more larger and more colorful than the McMahons’ library. It has three shelves, white walls with faux windows on the sides and a glass door painted red with a black-and-white cat painted on one pane.

    Inside I counted about 50 books, paperback and hard-cover, ranging from romance novels to history books to mysteries.

    Patrick Ayers inspects a Little Free Library box he built at the request of his wife, Jacqueline Ayers, and installed in front of their home at 1034 E. Platte Ave. last May to encourage reading and build a sense of community. They have enjoyed watching neighbors make friends and chat as they borrow and lend books at the box, which includes a painting of their cat, Gracie Slick. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Patrick Ayers inspects a Little Free Library box he built at the request of his wife, Jacqueline Ayers, and installed in front of their home at 1034 E. Platte Ave. last May to encourage reading and build a sense of community. They have enjoyed watching neighbors make friends and chat as they borrow and lend books at the box, which includes a painting of their cat, Gracie Slick. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    I stopped to talk to the owners, Jacqueline and Patrick Ayers. who described their own love of reading and desire to encourage others as motivation for building the library last May.

    “It has been a wonderful addition to the neighborhood,” Jacqueline said in an email message. “They even came driving up in their cars from other areas of the city.”

    Patrick said he’s been surprised how readily people contribute books.

    “Sometimes they even leave a boxes of books on the porch for us,” he said, showing me how he built their library using plywood, an old basement window for the door, wood fence slats he cut up for roof shingles.

    Like the McMahons, the Ayers enjoy watching as neighbors meet at the library and chat.

    “People are making new friends,” Patrick said. “That’s good for the neighborhood. I’d like to see these in every neighborhood.”

    As we stood on the sidewalk talking, a woman walked up with a cloth bag pulled two novels out and put them in the library.

    Martha Schwartz peruses the 50 or so books inside a Little Free Library box built and installed by Jacqueline and Patrick Ayers in front of their home at 1034 E. Platte Ave. last May. The Ayers wanted to encourage reading and build a sense of community. They have enjoyed watching neighbors make friends and chat as they borrow and lend books at the box. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Martha Schwartz peruses the 50 or so books inside a Little Free Library box built and installed by Jacqueline and Patrick Ayers in front of their home at 1034 E. Platte Ave. last May. The Ayers wanted to encourage reading and build a sense of community. They have enjoyed watching neighbors make friends and chat as they borrow and lend books at the box. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    “This is such a neat idea,” said the woman, Martha Schwartz. “I love this thing. I’ve been using it four or five months. It’s such a cool idea.”

    Martha said she loves to read and uses the Pikes Peak Library District. But the Little Free Library is so convenient she finds herself dropping by regularly.

    “This is so wonderful for people like me out walking,” she said as she looked for a new book to borrow.

    Little Free Library boxes have a little magic at Christmas. Photo courtesy Jacqueline Ayers.

    Little Free Library boxes have a little magic at Christmas. Photo courtesy Jacqueline Ayers.

    I particularly like the whimsical, even magical quality of the different library boxes.

    And the Ayers say there really is a little magic in the boxes.

    They told me of a man who walked by their library box just before Christmas.

    The man had a wife and an 8-month-old baby, no car and little money.

    He told Ayers he wanted to give his wife a book from the library.

    “When he took it home and gave it to her, they found stamps inside of the book,” Jacqueline said. “They took the stamps to a collector and received $200 for them.”

    Patrick smiled broadly at the memory: “I told him: ‘It is Christmas, after all!’ ”

    This Litte FreeLibrary was erected at 2708 Grandview Lane in the Colorado Springs Country Club/Palmer Park area. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

    This Litte FreeLibrary was erected at 2708 Grandview Lane in the Colorado Springs Country Club/Palmer Park area. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    This Little Free Library box was erected at 4160 Stonehaven Drive in the Broodmoor area. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

    This Little Free Library box was erected at 4160 Stonehaven Drive in the Broodmoor area. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    This Little Free Library box was erected at 727 N. Sheridan Ave. in memory of Anne Smedinghoff who died in 2013. She was taking children's books to Afghanistan, according to a memorial marker. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

    This Little Free Library box was erected at 727 N. Sheridan Ave. in memory of Anne Smedinghoff who died in 2013. She was taking children’s books to Afghanistan, according to a memorial marker. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    This Little Free Library box was donated to the Meadow Park Community Center, 1943 S. El Paso Ave., by Girl Scout Troop 1821. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

    This Little Free Library box was donated to the Meadow Park Community Center, 1943 S. El Paso Ave., by Girl Scout Troop 1821. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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    This Little Free Library box was donated to the Pinon Valley Elementary School, 6205 Farthing Dr. by Girl Scout Troop 1821. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

    This Little Free Library box was donated to the Pinon Valley Elementary School, 6205 Farthing Dr. by Girl Scout Troop 1821. Photo courtesy LittleFreeLibrary.org

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Black Forest DVD captures historic fire and its aftermath

    Wed, January 8, 2014 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Terry Stokka of the Black Forest History Committee. He was photographed at the Gazette Tuesday, January 7, 2014. Photo by Mark Reis

    Terry Stokka of the Black Forest History Committee. He was photographed at the Gazette Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Photo by Mark Reis

    The sequel is rarely as good as the original. (Need I mention Anchorman 2?)

    But that movie adage doesn’t hold up in the case of the video released recently by the Black Forest History Committee.

    In 2010, the committee produced “Historical Tour of the Black Forest.” The 45-minute DVD was a fascinating account of the unincorporated 100-square-mile community, mostly homes on 5-acre lots, north of Colorado Springs and bordered by the Palmer Divide.

    The video took viewers back to Black Forest’s founding in 1859 as a logging center and explored the people, such as legendary teacher Edith Wolford, and neighborhoods that have inhabited its Ponderosa pine forest. It was a labor of love by people who wanted to preserve and share their affection for their community.

    Now, the nonprofit, volunteer group has produced a second video: “The Day the Forest Burned.” This one is a documentary of the Black Forest fire last June that killed two people, destroyed 488 homes and burned 14,280 acres.

    Instead of being a labor of love, this video was more from necessity to tell future generations of the tragedy that ranks among the worst in Colorado history in size and scope, deaths, homes and businesses lost, and overall financial damage.

    The DVD project was the idea of Terry Stokka, an Air Force retiree and forest resident since 1993 who serves as chairman of the history committee of the Black Forest Community Club.

    Stokka lives in the Falcon Forest subdivision, west of the intersection of Shoup and Black Forest roads, where the fire ignited June 11.

    His home was spared, but 26 of his neighborhood’s 65 homes were destroyed and another 25 suffered serious damage to their lots and outbuildings.

    “I got to thinking after the fire that we need to document this,” Stokka said. “It’s such a defining moment in the history of Black Forest. We needed to preserve it.”

    Unlike with the Waldo Canyon fire that ravaged the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs in 2012, there is no professionally run history museum in Black Forest to collect artifacts or preserve in archives the events of last June.

    Here is the 28-page booklet and the DVD "The Day the Forest Burned" produced by the history committee of the Black Forest Community Club. The DVD is a documentary of the June 2013 fire that killed two and destroyed 488 houses in the unincorporated community north of Colorado Springs.

    Here is the 28-page booklet and the DVD “The Day the Forest Burned” produced by the history committee of the Black Forest Community Club. The DVD is a documentary of the June 2013 fire that killed two and destroyed 488 houses in the unincorporated community north of Colorado Springs.

    So Stokka got busy gathering newspaper stories, photos and videos and collecting personal accounts from eyewitnesses, victims and public officials.

    “I wrote a narrative, trying to be as accurate as I could with times and dates,” he said. “I gathered 250 pictures and six video clips that represent a pretty dramatic collection.”

    Among those donating photos was the staff of The Gazette as well as the Black Forest News, the Colorado Springs Fire Department and other sources.

    Stokka organized the information chronologically, weaving in bits of history on the forest. Then he turned everything over to committee member Jeff Spector who spent hours creating the actual video with Stokka’s audio narration.

    I particularly liked the “before and after” photos of historic buildings in the video. Of course, it was sad to see how many of the structures in the first video didn’t survive.

    And it made the original effort seem especially inspired.

    Stokka said it was difficult to edit the narrative to a reasonable viewing length. So he included the extra material in a 28-page booklet that the committee is selling with the DVD. Three small maps of the forest also are for sale, showing the houses lost and the scope of the fire.

    I wondered if anyone gathered any artifacts such as the skeletal remains of a motorcycle or the charred street signs and fused silverwear collected by the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum used to dramatically illustrate the impact of the Waldo Canyon fire in an exhibit last summer.

    “The idea of a display would be nice,” Stokka said. “But I’m not sure we could put that together. I don’t know if anybody collected artifacts.”

    Sadly, he said, there are still plenty of burned homes in the forest where an archivist could find display pieces.

    But that’s a whole different project. I’m impressed at what Stokka has accomplished in the DVD package. And I’m impressed at his goal for the money made from the sale of the DVD.

    “All proceeds will go to our Black Forest Community Club,” Stokka said. “All the money will go to relief agencies and be funneled to victims of the fire.”

    This is one of the three maps of Black Forest included in the DVD "The Day the Forest Burned" produced by the history committee of the Black Forest Community Club. This map pinpoints the location of the 488 houses destroyed in the June 2013 fire. Map courtesy of the Black Forest Community Club.

    This is one of the three maps of Black Forest included in the DVD “The Day the Forest Burned” produced by the history committee of the Black Forest Community Club. This map pinpoints the location of the 488 houses destroyed in the June 2013 fire. Map courtesy of the Black Forest Community Club.

    “The Day the Forest Burned” is a 50-minute DVD created by the history committee of the Black Forest Community Club. The DVD and three maps sell for $15. An accompanying 28-page booklet is an extra $3.

    The DVDs will be available for purchase — strictly cash or check transactionsbeginning Friday through Feb. 1 at the front desk of The Gazette, 30 E. Pikes Peak Ave., in downtown Colorado Springs.

    The Gazette has no legal or financial interest in the video and will not profit from any sales. All proceeds will be returned to the Black Forest Community Club, which is solely responsible for its content.

    Checks should be made payable to the BFC Club, a nonprofit organization.

    For more information, please call Terry Stokka at 495-0895 or email him at tstokka@juno.com.

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  • Rockrimmon residents fear new apartments will create dangerous congestion

    Wed, December 4, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The clubhouse of the Encore at Rockrimmon apartment complex is finished in this Dec. 3, 2013 photo. The Nor'wood Development Group hopes to take possession Dec. 21 of the first building in the 260-unit complex under construction on 12 acres along Delmonico Drive near South Rockrimmon Boulevard. Rents will range from $900 to $1,450 a month.

    The clubhouse of the Encore at Rockrimmon apartment complex is finished in this Dec. 3, 2013 photo. The Nor’wood Development Group hopes to take possession Dec. 21 of the first building in the 260-unit complex under construction on 12 acres along Delmonico Drive near South Rockrimmon Boulevard. Rents will range from $900 to $1,450 a month.

    With images of their frantic escape from the 2012 Waldo Canyon fire fresh in their minds, some residents of Rockrimmon are worried their neighborhood is about to become dangerously congested as one large apartment complex opens and another is proposed.

    But officials of the new 260-unit Encore at Rockrimmon apartments on 12 acres along Delmonico Drive, and the proposed Creekside at Rockrimmon project, with 141 apartment units and 62 single-family homes on 24 acres just to the west, say their projects would not unduly add to traffic volumes.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking west from Delmonico Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking west from Delmonico Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    The fears surfaced in neighborhood meetings designed to alert folks to the projects and gather their input.

    Neighbor Carol Vogeney wrote me about the project after one of the meetings turned ugly and left her and others unsatisfied with the answers they received.

    “It was explosive,” Vogeney wrote of the two-hour meeting in October. “Many issues came up: traffic, crime, what to do if we have to evacuate again in the traffic.”

    She was talking about the bumper-to-bumper traffic jam that occurred June 26, 2012, when the Waldo Canyon fire exploded into Mountain Shadows neighborhood prompting the evacuation of about 30,000 residents west of Interstate 25.

    The Creekside at Rockrimmon project proposed by Premier Homes of Pueblo calls for 62 single-family homes and a 141-unit student housing complex on 24 acres. The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments will have 260 units when completed. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    The Creekside at Rockrimmon project proposed by Premier Homes of Pueblo calls for 62 single-family homes and a 141-unit student housing complex on 24 acres. The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments will have 260 units when completed. Courtesy FlashEarth.com

    At the peak of the evacuation, looping Rockrimmon Boulevard was six lanes of eastbound cars, packed with kids, pets and personal belongings, trying desperately to avoid the inferno to the west. Delmonico was choked with southbound cars.

    The streets intersect twice, north and south, and it was gridlock at both.

    Both apartment projects are located near the south intersection, which was especially clogged due to the proximity of railroad tracks and an intersection with Mark Dabling Boulevard and I-25.

    The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments fill 12 acres between Delmonico Drive and the railroad tracks adjacent to Mark Dabling Boulevard. The complex sits behind the Mateo Spa and USA Cycling buildings. Originally, the project was call North Pointe Apartments. It will have 260 units when completed.

    The Encore at Rockrimmon apartments fill 12 acres between Delmonico Drive and the railroad tracks adjacent to Mark Dabling Boulevard. The complex sits behind the Mateo Spa and USA Cycling buildings. Originally, the project was call North Pointe Apartments. It will have 260 units when completed.

    Now, Vogeney and many folks in the Golden Hills and Tamarron neighborhoods, among other nearby neighborhoods, worry that adding hundreds of apartments will make it even harder to funnel through the intersection of Delmonico and South Rockrimmon Boulevard.

    “Can you imagine that intersection?” Vogeney asked.

    City planner Lonna Thelen said traffic engineers studied plans submitted by Nor’wood Development Group for Encore and deemed the projected volumes within reasonable limits.

    Steve Sharkey, Nor’wood Development vice president, said Encore’s apartments would generate less traffic than if the property had been developed into more retail shops, as was originally envisioned and zoned.

    “The volume of traffic will be significantly less than a retail environment,” Sharkey said, adding that Encore will appeal to “young professionals and emptynesters” who can afford rents ranging from $900 to $1,450 a month.

    As Encore prepares to open its first building Dec. 21, Creekside awaits approval of proposed changes to its concept plan in hopes of launching the first phase of its project. It calls for 38 units in six buildings plus a clubhouse on five acres west of the intersection.

    Creekside needs approval to amend its concept from multi-family to student housing, hoping to cash in on the explosive growth of the nearby University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

    Thelen said she is awaiting analysis by traffic engineers of the plans for Creekside, submitted by N.E.S. Inc., a Springs planning firm handling the project for Premier Homes of Pueblo.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard.  The first phase calls for 38 units in six buildings and a clubhouse with pool on five acres.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. The first phase calls for 38 units in six buildings and a clubhouse with pool on five acres.

    “We’ve asked for additional study in response to neighborhood concerns,” Thelen said. “We have asked the applicant to resolve questions about geological hazards, drainage and traffic.”

    John Maynard of N.E.S. Inc., said his client has built similar student housing projects in Pueblo, east of Colorado State University there. And a similar project is planned at Mesa State University in Grand Junction.

    “There will be a pool, clubhouse, common kitchen and living area,” Maynard said. “Each bedroom has its own bath and the units are all furnished with daily trash pickup and 24-hour security patrols.”

    But Vogeney said many neighbors fear Creekside will actually be home to far more students, who will double-bunk to save money and clog the area with cars.

    “The developer insists that college kids have changed and will take good care of their dorm rooms and no one will ever have an extra roomate,” she said in disbelief.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking north from Tech Center Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    Premier Homes of Pueblo has proposed building a student housing complex with 141 units and 62 single-family homes to be called Creekside at Rockrimmon in this field along South Rockrimmon Boulevard. This view is looking north from Tech Center Drive. Neighbors fear the student apartments, coupled with the nearby Encore at Rockrimmon apartments now under construction, will dangerously clog area streets.

    Maynard said his client is convinced the project will run smoothly, citing experienced gained in Pueblo. He said he hopes to provide Thelen soon with new traffic projections and calm neighborhood fears.

    One change might be the installation of a traffic signal where the project will intersect with Rockrimmon at Tech Center Drive.

    Creekside, if approved by Thelen, would need approval of the City Planning Commission and possibly the Colorado Springs City Council if an appeal is filed. Premier hopes to have the first phase built and open by the 2014 fall semester.

    ===============

  • Colorado Springs builder recycles trees destroyed by wildfires in new homes

    Sun, November 10, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Andy Stauffer, president of Colorado Timber Homes, is recycling charred Black Forest ponderosa pines into timbers like the cross beam he's seen leaning on in this Oct. 31, 2013, photo. Stauffer's company used recycled timbers to rebuild this large shed at Venetucci Farm and more will be used to build horse stalls in a new barn there. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Andy Stauffer, president of Colorado Timber Homes, is recycling charred Black Forest ponderosa pines into timbers like the cross beam he’s seen leaning on in this Oct. 31, 2013, photo. Stauffer’s company used recycled timbers to rebuild this large shed at Venetucci Farm and more will be used to build horse stalls in a new barn there. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    When Andy Stauffer’s company, Colorado Timber Homes, was rebuilding a Mountain Shadows home destroyed during the Waldo Canyon fire, he had an idea for linking the old and the new.

    It involved recycling a particular tree that had burned on his clients’ property. This tree had been planted by the homeowners for their kids and had special meaning to the family.

    “We dropped the tree and used it to create a mantel over the fireplace in the new home,” Stauffer told me. “Now, they have a photo of the family with the old tree, sitting on that mantel in their new home.”

    Andy Stauffer's Colorado Timber Homes harvested 120 or so large Ponderosa pine trees from this scorched lot in Black Forest to recycle as construction lumber. Courtesy photo.

    Andy Stauffer’s Colorado Timber Homes harvested 120 or so large Ponderosa pine trees from this scorched lot in Black Forest to recycle as construction lumber. Courtesy photo.

    He said the photo and mantle became a source of comfort and helped warm the new home for the family.

    Lately, his company is rebuilding homes that were destroyed in the recent Black Forest fire and he’s creating new mantles from burned pine trees that he’s recycling from his clients’ lots.

    The Venetucci Farm's old asparagus shed in the background was rebuilt using lumber milled from charred logs burned in the Black Forest fire. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Venetucci Farm’s old asparagus shed in the background was rebuilt using lumber milled from charred logs burned in the Black Forest fire. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    And seeing all those thousands of acres of burned trees prompted him to think how he might recycle more of the wood, rather than see it all of it simply lost to the chippers.

    “Those tree have to come down eventually,” Stauffer said. “A lot of them can be used like rip rap on hillsides to stop erosion. And a lot of the smaller ones can be chipped up and redistributed to stabilize the soil.

    “But there’s a lot of large logs that can be used for something else.”

    So Stauffer approached the folks at the Pikes Peak Community Foundation about rebuilding a large, old asparagus shed, as it was known, at the old Venetucci Farm, established in 1936 south of Colorado Springs along Fountain Creek in unincorporated Security.

    photo by Carol Lawrence 10-11-01

    Nick Venetucci, 90, is seen in an Oct. 11, 2001, photo on his farm on Highway 85/87, Security, after getting off his 1948 John Deer Tractor. The Gazette file

    You may remember the farm as the place where, for decades, Nick Venetucci grew pumpkins, among other crops, and gave away thousands each year at Halloween to area school children.

    Nick died in 2004 and the foundation acquired the farm a couple years later as a gift from the estate.

    Today, it remains a working farm and the foundation carries on the Venetucci pumpkin giveaway tradition. In addition, it grows 100 varieties of chemical-free vegetables and herbs as well as raising “heritage hogs,” grass-fed cattle and egg-laying chickens.

    Everything grown at the farm is sold in the Pikes Peak region through a farmers market, an on-site farm stand, and to area restaurants.

    The shed, which looks like a large barn, was in danger of collapse. Its roof was ragged and peeling away and timbers inside were rotted and failing.

    111013 Side Streets 7Rebuilding it with commercial lumber would have been too expensive. So Stauffer suggested using the charred lumber off of a Black Forest lot as a way to cut costs and save the shed.

    “This was an historic building,” Stauffer said recently as he showed me around inside. “But it was falling down.”

    Rather than raze the shed, Stauffer thought he could salvage it using freshly cut Black Forest pine.

    Covered in soot, Ralf Bock mills burned logs to be used on a historic shed at the Venetucci Farm on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013.  The logs are from the Black Forest burn area. Once the burned outer layer is cut away, the logs make perfectly fine lumber. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Covered in soot, Ralf Bock mills burned logs to be used on a historic shed at the Venetucci Farm on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. The logs are from the Black Forest burn area. Once the burned outer layer is cut away, the logs make perfectly fine lumber. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    So he hired Ralf Bock from RB Custom Homes in Cripple Creek to haul down his portable mill to the farm. Then Stauffer’s crews dragged 120 or so large, black pine logs, 8 inches in diameter or larger, to the farm and Bock got busy.

    When I met him last week, Bock was sitting at his mill, pushing one log through after another. His large saw peeled away the blackened bark and sliced large, smooth pieces of lumber out of the logs.

    Behind him was the shed, standing as straight and tall as it must have decades ago when the Venetuccis  used it to process vegetables grown at their farm.

    Charred Black Forest ponderosa pine are being milled into lumber being used to rebuild an old shed and to create horse stalls in a new barn at Venetucci Farm. Fire marks are still visible on some of the milled wood. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Charred Black Forest Ponderosa pine are being milled into lumber being used to rebuild an old shed and to create horse stalls in a new barn at Venetucci Farm. Fire marks are still visible on some of the milled wood. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Inside, the new timbers and beams were obvious in contrast to the weathered old posts and boards they had joined.

    With the shed rebuilt, Stauffer now plans to use Black Forest lumber to build five horse stalls in a new barn next to the shed among other projects.

    Some of the wood being used in a historical asparagus shed at the Venetucci Farm is from the Black Forest Fire. Charles Hutchison gets ready to put a piece of the wood in place at the farm on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    Some of the wood being used in a historical asparagus shed at the Venetucci Farm is from the Black Forest Fire. Charles Hutchison gets ready to put a piece of the wood in place at the farm on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

    “Is this wood viable for commercial construction? No,” Stauffer said. “Ponderosa pine is considered a garbage material. Because of its branch structure, it has a lot of knots and imperfections that contribute to weakness.”

    So the charred wood can’t cut it as load-bearing lumber for mass construction.

    But it can be used to shore up old sheds or as a nostalgic beam in a home or a mantel or some other detail piece, he said.

    I think it’s a great idea to salvage as much of the old timber as possible. After all, pioneers used Black Forest timber to build Colorado Springs. Why not use it, where possible, as trim in rebuilt homes?

    Charred Black Forest ponderosa pine are being milled into lumber being used to rebuild an old shed and to create horse stalls in a new barn at Venetucci Farm. Fire marks are still visible on some of the milled wood. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    Charred Black Forest ponderosa pine are being milled into lumber being used to rebuild an old shed and to create horse stalls in a new barn at Venetucci Farm. Fire marks are still visible on some of the milled wood. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    ==================

  • Orphaned Colorado Springs war vets to regroup at Denny’s

    Fri, September 6, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The Peak Grill as it appeared Sept. 5, 2013, about two weeks after it closed. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The Peak Grill as it appeared Sept. 5, 2013, about two weeks after it closed. Bill Vogrin / The Gazette

    The failure of a small, family-owned and operated business is painful enough. Everything you worked to build for years is gone. Your finances are ruined. You are embarrassed.

    But when you feel like you’ve let others down, too, that pain is compounded.

    Randy and Nancy Bolen. Photo courtesy Jane Rodgers.

    Randy and Nancy Bolen. Photo courtesy Jane Rodgers.

    That’s the case for Randy and Nancy Bolen who abruptly closed their Peak Grill on Centennial Boulevard a couple weeks ago. They shut down operations after 14 years serving breakfast and lunch to folks in Mountain Shadows, Holland Park and the surrounding northwest area, there was one aspect that made it even worse.

    The Bolens were heartbroken to walk away from their restaurant, which Randy said finally succumbed to soaring food costs, the recession and a knockout blow last summer from the Waldo Canyon fire which killed two in Mountain Shadows and destroyed 347 homes, many of them owned by regular Grill customers.

    But they feel even worse because their closure has orphaned a group of veterans of World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

    Inside the Peak Grill, a wall was dedicated to veterans of World War II, known as the Greatest Generation. Courtesy photo.

    Inside the Peak Grill, a wall was dedicated to veterans of World War II, known as the Greatest Generation. Courtesy photo.

    For the past four years, the group has met at the restaurant on a monthly basis, even creating a “Greatest Generation” wall inside of photos, news clippings and other memories. They gathered to make new friends, to share war stories, to enrich their twilight years by surrounding themselves with a shrinking group of vets who alone can understand what they endured on the battlefield.

    Randy Bolen knows those monthly lunch meetings were pretty special in the lives of these vets and he’s sick to think his closing also might doom the group’s activities.

    “I so hope another restaurant or business or organization will step up to honor these people,” Randy said of the veterans.

    Dennys_Logo_ColorA new home, at least for now, has been found at Denny’s restaurant at 315 W. Bijou St., at the intersection of Interstate 25. But some wonder if any restaurant can ever recapture the special feeling that existed at the Peak Grill.

    It started as a one-time event in 2009 when Randy and Nancy offered a free lunch to all World War II vets on the anniversary of the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.

    “Nancy and I were watching a History Channel show about the war and we cooked up a scheme to honor our local veterans on Pearl Harbor day,” Randy said. “We had such a good response we decided to do it monthly.”

    So on the second Tuesday of every month, veterans gathered at the Grill for a deeply discounted lunch, often a guest speaker, and to make new friends.

    “At our last lunch meeting, we had close to 100 people,” Randy said. “It was one of the most satisfying things about the business.”

    Henry "Duke" Boswell, a paratrooper in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War II. Photo courtesy of Jane Rodgers.

    Henry “Duke” Boswell, a paratrooper in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment during World War II. Photo courtesy of Jane Rodgers.

    One of the regulars at the lunches was Henry “Duke” Boswell, 89, who was drawn by the opportunity to commiserate with fellow GIs who could relate to his own war experiences as a paratrooper in the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

    Boswell was among the fearless paratroopers who jumped into the night, drifting down behind enemy lines as a prelude to key invasions including the daring D-Day invasion on the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, as Allied forces launched a pivotal offensive against Nazi Germany.

    “We jumped at midnight, the night before D-Day in a town near the coast about two miles behind the landing beaches,” Boswell said. “Our job was to grab the crossroads and bridges that led to the beaches and stop the Germans from reinforcing the beaches.”

    Not many places you can find someone to nod knowingly and appreciate stories of Germans firing at you as you floated to earth with tracer bullets whizzing past your parachute. It’s a special kind of camaraderie that the Bolens and the Peak Grill offered.

    “I feel terrible about them closing,” Boswell said. “They did it out of the goodness of their hearts. It was a great project.”

    Jane Rodgers. Photo courtesy Jane Rodgers

    Jane Rodgers. Photo courtesy Jane Rodgers

    Jane Rodgers is hoping to preserve the lunch program by relocating it to a new restaurant.

    Rodgers, whose husband was a Vietnam veteran, helped the Bolens coordinate the lunches as the program grew in popularity.

    But with the next lunch meeting scheduled Sept. 10, she was running out of time in her effort to find a restaurant willing to host dozens of war vets. Then she called Denny’s.

    “We’re more than happy to have them here,” Denny’s manager Nate Bellamy told me. “I guess a lot of other restaurants couldn’t accommodate them. But we can. We’re looking forward to it.”

     Rodgers and Boswell hope all the veterans who were regulars at Peak Grill will drop by Denny’s at 11 a.m., Tuesday, to join them for lunch.

    As Boswell noted, it’s not like they can waste too many opportunities to meet since many are in their 80s and 90s.

    “It’s just a good, friendly meeting,” Boswell said. “Absolutely, I’ll be there. It would be a shame to let it die.”

    ==========

  • Neighbor stood and fought for common sense over aesthetics making new Colorado Springs roof a breeze

    Thu, August 29, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Randy Murrish stood in front of his home at 87 Raven Hills Court in this July 14, 2000, photo.  Murrish was denied permission by the Raven Hills Homeowners Association to install fire resistant asphalt shingles on his roof.  He would have been the first of 225 homes in his subdivision to have the asphalt shingles. The Gazette file

    Randy Murrish stood in front of his home at 87 Raven Hills Court in this July 14, 2000, photo. Murrish was denied permission by the Raven Hills Homeowners Association to install fire resistant asphalt shingles on his roof. He would have been the first of 225 homes in his subdivision to have the asphalt shingles. The Gazette file

    Thanks to a hard weekend of work by a crew of six men, I have a new peace of mind.

    The crew replaced the faded wood shake roof on my Rockrimmon home with fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood.

    We thanked our crew with pizza and beer for their work.

    But I also need to thank a former neighbor, Randy Murrish, who did some heavy lifting of his own that contributed greatly to my new sense of tranquility.

    For us, it was a simple process. My wife, Cary, researched all the roofing options available, selected a style and color of asphalt shingle and submitted our decision to the homeowners association, which waved it through without comment. (Waved it, that is, after they smacked down her inquiry about a smooth steel roof common in ski towns. Our HOA was having none of that nonsense!)

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake..

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake.

    The new roof is something we’d wanted to do since we bought the house. It was 1997 and the massive Buffalo Creek wildfire west of Denver a year earlier was fresh on our minds.

    But short of cash — a theme in my life — we prayed for a hail storm. But hail rarely came and when it did that dang wood shake was just too tough to destroy.

    I remember being frustrated when hail damaged neighbors’ homes and their insurance companies agreed to pay. That was the case in 2000 with my neighbor Randy.

    “My cedar shake shingles were crumbling,” he recalled. “Then we had a hail storm and I convinced my insurance company to pay half.”

    Randy was further motivated by a major wildfire in New Mexico that year and the Hi Meadow fire near Denver.

    “I saw the devastation,” he said. “I knew it was just a matter of time before it happened in Colorado Springs.”

    But when Randy researched the covenants of our Raven Hills Homeowners Association, he learned they mandated cedar shake. (It’s amazing, frankly, that no one saw the inherent risk of having kindling as the chief protection for your home. Especially in a region with so many lightning strikes and wildfires.)

    A few neighbors had persuaded our HOA’s architectural control committee, or ACC, to allow concrete tile roofing materials. But when he studied them, Randy learned they were too heavy for our homes.

    “The houses that had them, their roofs dipped in the middle because of the weight,” he said.

    So he put together a 20-page proposal to the ACC to justify using asphalt shingles. He had photos of the shingles on million-dollar homes in nearby Peregrine. And he submitted letters from real estate agents who said the shingles did not hurt home values.

    Randy even analyzed the improvements asphalt offered in fire safety, cost and durability.

    “I did a complete presentation,” Randy said. “But before I got home that night, they already voted me down.”

    (We wrote about his fight with the HOA in 2000 as he tried to install the first asphalt shingle roof in our neighborhood.)

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake..

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake.

    So he grudgingly replaced his roof with wood shingles treated with fire retardant. Randy did something else, as well. He vowed to change the rules.

    Already, Boulder had banned wood shake roofs in 1994 and other cities followed. Colorado Springs didn’t ban new wood shake roofs until October 2002, after the Hayman fire. But many HOAs were reluctant to allow asphalt shingles, forcing homeowners to install expensive cement and coated-steel roofs.

    So Randy got himself elected to the ACC. It took a couple years, but eventually rules were changed and now asphalt shingles protect houses throughout Raven Hills.

    (In fairness, our HOA was no different from many others. And wood shake roofs remain common across the region. In fact, they were mandated by covenants in Mountain Shadows and are blamed spreading the Waldo Canyon fire on several streets.)

    I called Randy, who now lives in Seattle, to tell him we were thinking about him.

    I told him he’d been right all along. As he had feared all those years ago, wildfire did visit the Colorado Springs area, horribly, last summer and again this year.

    The Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires finally scared me enough to choke down the cost of a new roof.

    It’s such a comfort, actually, that now we’re thinking of covering our wood siding with brick or stucco.

    But without people like Randy willing to speak out and fight, I might be writing a much different column, about aesthetics clouding good judgment. It would have been a lot harder for us to finally rid our home of its rotting and cracked wood shingles.

    Instead, replacing our roof with attractive, common-sense materials was a breeze — except for writing a check with lots of zeroes on it.

    So, for that, I thank you Randy.

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resememble wood shake..

    A crew of six worked all weekend to strip cedar wood shake shingles from the roof of Gazette Side Streets columnist Bill Vogrin. The rotting, cracked shingles, seen in this Aug. 24, 2013, photo, were replaced by fire retardant, impact resistant, rubberized asphalt shingles made to resemble wood shake.

    =============

  • It’s a dynamite rebirth for Pikeview Quarry after rockslide-induced slumber

    Sun, July 7, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    The Pikeview Mine looms above Oak Valley Ranch and Peregrine. It recently reopened, four years after a pair of massive rock slides closed it.  Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.

    The Pikeview Mine looms above Oak Valley Ranch and Peregrine. It recently reopened, four years after a pair of massive rock slides closed it. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.

    Four years after massive rock slides shut down the Pikeview Quarry above Oak Valley Ranch and Peregrine, the century-old mine visible for miles on the northwest edge of Colorado Springs has been declared safe and has reopened.

    Since May, dynamite has been blasting every week or so and trucks piled high with limestone again are rumbling past hundreds of homes and apartments often running from early morning until evening.

    The vibration from the loaded trucks, coupled with the loud braking, prompted calls from neighbors who had grown accustomed to the silence.

    Big rigs hauling limestone from the Pikeview Quarry rumble down Allegheny Drive, upsetting some neighbors who say they rattle windows.  Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.

    Big rigs hauling limestone from the Pikeview Quarry rumble down Allegheny Drive, upsetting some neighbors who say they rattle windows. Photo by Junfu Han. The Gazette.

    “They can shake the house,” said Loree Ellis, who backs up to Allegheny Drive about a half mile east of Pikeview. “It’s really bad when they jake-brake.”

    Ellis was referring to a loud diesel engine braking system used to slow big rigs. Many cities ban “jake-braking” in neighborhoods.

    Anyway, after a couple other complaints from folks, I visited the mine and met with M.L. “Mac” Shafer, vice president of Transit Mix Aggregates, which owns Castle Concrete and the Pikeview Quarry.

    The Pikeview Quarry is seen in April 2008 before two massive rock slides sent millions of tons of limestone crashing down the steep walls of the mine. Courtesy photo.

    The Pikeview Quarry is seen in April 2008 before two massive rock slides sent millions of tons of limestone crashing down the steep walls of the mine. Courtesy photo.

    I hadn’t been to Pikeview since September 2009 to see the damage caused by two huge rockslides. The first, on Dec. 2, 2008, brought 2 million tons of limestone crashing down the steep, stair-stepped ledges in the center of the quarry, generating a dramatic plume of dust and lots of calls to police from worried Springs residents.

    Another aerial photo shows the aftermath of the Dec. 2, 2008, rock slide. Boulders as large as 40,000 tons broke off the walls of the mine.

    Another aerial photo shows the aftermath of the Dec. 2, 2008, rock slide. Boulders as large as 40,000 tons broke off the walls of the mine.

     

    On Sept. 9, 2009, a second slide produced another, smaller plume and dropped an estimated 1 million tons of limestone down the walls of the quarry.

    The next few years were spent monitoring the quarry, which has a permit for 236 acres but actively mines less than half that area, with sophisticated laser sensors and seismographs and hiring geologists and engineers to analyze the mine.

    Here's another view of the Pikeview Quarry after the 2008 slide  looking west from Centennial Boulevard.  Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette

    Here’s another view of the Pikeview Quarry after the 2008 slide looking west from Centennial Boulevard.
    Photo by Carol Lawrence, The Gazette

    A plan was developed to reopen, reclaim and close the mine by 2020.

    Jerry Schnabel, president of Transit Mix, described it as a “four-phase plan for shrinking the scar, top to bottom and north to south.”

    A public hearing process last year led to the recent reopening and resumption of mining.

    “Ultimately, it’s a reclamation process,” Shafer said. “But we’ve got to mine and get to the point where it can be reclaimed.”

    The mountainside is granite covered by limestone, Shafer said. Experts believe the rockslides were the result of moisture building up between the granite and the limestone.

    “It will never be stable until we remove all the limestone,” he said.

    Even before it began mining again, the mine was busy taking in concrete rubble from the 347 homes destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire in Mountain Shadows. And Shafer said his crews donated tons of sand for sandbagging give-aways in recent months as homeowners try to protect themselves from flashflooding off the burn scar.

    Shafer noted the Waldo Canyon fire, which burned to the edge of the quarry and stopped it’s advance into Oak Valley Ranch and Peregrine, will actually enhance efforts to make the mine blend with the surrounding Pike National Forest.

    “We’ll be doing mine reclamation at the same time the fire reclamation is going on in the forest,” he said. “Now there won’t be such a contrast.”

    But first the limestone must be removed. So crews are drilling and blasting, crushing and screening and, ultimately, trucking away limestone for use in concrete, asphalt and other building materials. Pikeview limestone, for example, is being heavily used in the widening of Austin Bluffs Parkway, in reconstruction of Mountain Shadows homes and assorted other projects.

    Eventually, Shafer said the company plans to attack the dangerous slide zone, where boulders as big as 40,000 tons still are slowly rotating down the mountain.

    “We’ll take the rubble in the slide area,” he said. “It’s unstable so we’ll have to do it remotely.”

    Kurt Getreuer, left, keeps busy digging holes as Thea Getreuer, right, secures a newly planted tree above the Pikeview Quarry on Saturday, May 19, 2007. Photo by David Bitton

    Kurt Getreuer, left, keeps busy digging holes as Thea Getreuer, right, secures a newly planted tree above the Pikeview Quarry on Saturday, May 19, 2007. The Gazette file.

    As his crews mine, Shafer said they’ll also work on reclamation. And their efforts will be watched closely by Gary Bradley and David Isbell of the non-profit Colorado Mountain Reclamation Foundation, which oversaw reclamation of Castle’s Queens Canyon Quarry above the Garden of the Gods. Quarry walls were sprayed with stain, dirt was hauled in and 7,000 trees planted at Queens from 1995 to 2001.

    “It was a huge victory,” Isbell said.

    Similar efforts, led largely by another foundation member, Wanda Reaves, were well underway at Pikeview. Starting in 2003, thousands of Douglas fir and Rocky Mountain junipers had been planted high in the mine by volunteers using peat moss and a mixture of moisture-retaining polymer crystals in holes draped with black tarp and protected by mesh guards and sun screens.

    However, much of the work was wiped out by the slides.

    Isbell and Bradley promise to ensure Shafer and his crews stay true to the reclamation plan, approved by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

    “We are monitoring them,” Bradley said. “And they are performing.”

    He said the operating plan for the mine shows a end date of 2020 for Pikeview. But Shafer believes its probably too optimistic to think reclamation will be completed that soon.

    “I’d say it may take anywhere from 10 to 11 years or more,” he said.

    Quarry 027That’s not good news to neighbors like Ellis.

    “I want to sell my house and I was hoping the quarry would stay shut down,” she said, praising Shafer for restricting operating hours and trying to be a good neighbor.

    “I feel bad about complaining,” said Ellis, noting her father drove an 18-wheel truck.

    But she knows the sight and sound of rock trucks rolling past her windows will make selling a bigger challenge.

    “I feel a little guilty talking about it at all,” she said. “I know that rock quarry saved my house.”

    ——–

    Efforts to haul in dirt and plant trees along the south side of the Pikeview Quarry are visible in this photo taken before the Dec. 2, 2008, rock slide.

    Efforts to haul in dirt and plant trees along the south side of the Pikeview Quarry are visible in this photo taken before the Dec. 2, 2008, rock slide.

    Pikeview history:

    The Pikeview Quarry produced “dusting lime” used in coal mines in the early 1900s and then lime used in farming. A lime kiln was on the site for years.

    A 1947 aerial photo showed the mine covered about 20 acres. It was operated for years by Peter Kiewit and Sons, who expanded it dramatically in 1950s as the Air Force Academy was built. It was known then as the Lennox Breed Quarry.

    It was abandoned in 1960. Castle Concrete leased the Pikeview Quarry in 1969. Castle is a subsidiary of Transit Mix, which owned the Queens Canyon Quarry above the Garden of the Gods and operated it from about 1955 to 1989. The company also operates the Black Canyon Quarry, opened in 1881 by the Black Brothers behind what is now Cedar Heights. And it has a sand mine along South Academy Boulevard.

    Mining resumed at Pikeview in late 1970 and Castle soon bought the mine.

    Quarry 010—-

    To read my Sept. 23, 2009, column about Pikeview, click here.

    Follow this link to my 2009 blog about the quarry.

    ====================

     

  • Red zone homes told to mitigate wildfire risk by cutting trees – or else

    Sat, June 29, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with 5 comments

    This map by I-News Network shows red zones considered at high risk of wildfire across Colorado.

    This map by I-News Network shows red zones considered at high risk of wildfire across Colorado.

    On June 10, State Farm Insurance Co. mailed 12,000 letters to homeowners in six Western states alerting them that inspectors would be visiting their properties and taking photos to assess their risk from wildfire.

    These letters could dramatically change the look of Colorado Springs and foothills neighborhoods across the West.

    Doesn’t matter whether you are a State Farm customer. If you live in a “red zone” amid scrub oak and pine trees and junipers like so many in the Pikes Peak region, the decision by the largest property and casualty insurer in the country to crack down on defensible space is significant.

    State Farm insures about 22 percent of all Colorado homes, according to the Department of Regulatory Agencies, collecting $336 million in premiums a year. So if it tells 1 in 5 homeowners to cut down their trees or else, that alone would change the complexion of the community.

    And knowing that the rest of the industry usually follows the leader, you start to see what I believe is coming for red-zone homes. In Colorado Springs, residents can find a home’s wildfire rating by checking the city’s website at http://gis.springsgov.com/wildfiremitigation/

    State Farm, and the entire industry, put new emphasis on wildfire mitigation after the massive Hayman fire west of Colorado Springs in 2002.

    State Farm implemented a “wildfire loss prevention program” the next year and began surveying and assessing properties in Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. It later expanded to Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and California.

    The program went into maintenance mode in 2007, said Angela Thorpe, a State Farm spokeswoman.

    But that changed after last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon fire, which killed two and destroyed 347 homes in Mountain Shadows. Letters went out a few months later, followed by the latest mailing June 10.

    “Given the frequency and severity of fires we are experiencing, we are revisiting that issue,” Thorpe said.

    I’ve talked to several people who received inspection letters as well as follow-up letters telling them to cut down every tree, bush and shrub within 100 feet of their homes or face cancellation of their policies. The company is giving homeowners 18 months to comply. Thorpe said the policyholders are given that much time to comply because State Farm recognizes the cost of removing trees.

    “We routinely reach out to customers to partner with them to mitigate fire risk,” Thorpe said. “We conduct surveys in high-risk areas to determine if people need to do some work to lessen their risk of fire.”

    She said the company uses inspectors trained by state forestry agency experts and it relies on fire mitigation standards created by the National Fire Protection Association’s FireWise wildfire safety program.

    “We recommend cutting all trees within 100 feet of a house,” Thorpe said, noting the defensible-space perimeter recommended by FireWise recently was increased from its previous 30-foot to 50-foot standard.

    “Our recommendation is to cut all trees,” she said. “Trees are fuels for fire. Any potential fuels we recommend removing.”

    When State Farm says it “recommends” removing trees, it is not a casual suggestion. Failure to comply can result in policy cancellation. But Thorpe said most customers gladly agree to make the necessary changes.

    “We don’t receive a lot of refusal to do so,” she said. “Since the program began in 2003, less than 1 percent of our customers have been non-renewed or cancelled because they refused to follow the prevention recommendations.”

    The people I’ve been talking to are shocked at the 100-foot perimeter. They shudder at the cost they will face to remove so many trees. They also fear their property values will sink with the loss of some or all landscaping.

    Many say they are shopping around for a new insurance company. But they are finding insurance companies aren’t interested in writing new policies for homes in Mountain Shadows or other high-risk neighborhoods.

    Others say they were dropped and resorted to buying expensive policies through Lloyds of London, which specializes in high-risk insurance policies.

    Industry experts caution against jumping companies to avoid the strict new mitigation requirements because they tell me most insurers will start thinking hard about reducing future payouts and adopting similar mitigation demands to State Farm’s approach.

    Especially given what happened the day after State Farm mailed all those letters June 10.

    Of course, on June 11, the Black Forest fire erupted and soon eclipsed Waldo Canyon as Colorado’s most destructive wildfire in terms of structures lost. Before it was contained a few days later, it had killed two and destroyed 511 homes, seriously damaged 28 others while charring 14,280 acres.

    The timing was a sad coincidence and illustrates why the insurance giant is getting serious about wildfire.

    Industry experts say it’s reasonable to expect USAA with 690 claims in Black Forest, Farmers Insurance with 469 Black Forest claims, American Family Insurance with 215 claims, and all the others to follow the leader.

    Carole Walker, executive director of the industry’s Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, said many insurers require only “thinning” of trees, not clear-cutting lots.

    But she acknowledged that State Farm is doing what lawmakers in California already have done.

    “In California, they have defensible space ordinances that require 100 feet in wildfire-prone areas,” Walker said, urging homeowners to talk to their insurance agents to understand what is expected.

    “Everyone is asking what can we do to make these neighborhoods safer as whole,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing more emphasis on mitigation. Usually, it’s not a matter of cutting down all your trees. Usually it means thinning and moving fuels away.

    “But the higher risk you are, the more will be required.”

     So while the immediate impact of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires was felt by folks who lost everything, the fires tossed embers that are smoldering and could singe the checkbooks and change the landscape of forest-loving folks across the region.

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    IF YOUR RATES ARE GOING UP:

    Many in Mountain Shadows and throughout the Pikes Peak region report their homeowners insurance rates are climbing, upwards of 25 percent, while others say their insurance is being cancelled in the wake of last summer’s Waldo Canyon fire.

    Marcy Morrison in a 2007 Gazette file photo

    Marcy Morrison in a 2007 Gazette file photo

    So I called Marcy Morrison, retired Colorado Insurance Commissioner, for her advice.

    She strongly urges anyone who feels their insurance premiums are jumping at an unreasonable rate to talk to their insurance agents and, if unsatisfied with the explanation, report the situation to the Division of Insurance.

    Call 800-930-3745, email your questions to insurance@dora.state.co.us or fill out an online form at www.dora.state.co.us/pls/real/Ins_Complaint.Submit_Form.

    “The division will call the insurance company and try to get an explanation,” Morrison said. “They have to respond to the division.”

    That’s because insurance premiums must be justified by losses and companies are obligated to prove necessity to the state.

    “They have to show, without a doubt, their costs have gone up and they have to convince the division it is an appropriate increase in premiums,” Morrison said.

    She also urged homeowners to closely read their insurance policies and be sure they understand their coverages.

    As for decisions to require fire mitigation practices such as defensible space and a 100-foot perimeter or risk cancellation, Morrison compared it to an insurance company’s ability to drop high-risk drivers.

    “They can pretty much drop you if it is a safety issue and you aren’t taking their advice,” she said.

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  • Mountain Shadows rises year after horrific blaze

    Wed, June 26, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Mark Reese, left, and Mike Hausman stand on the deck of Reese's new home in Mountain Shadows on June 22, 2013.

    Mark Reese, left, and Mike Hausman stand on the deck of Reese’s new home in Mountain Shadows on June 22, 2013.

    The day after the Black Forest fire erupted June 11, Mike Hausman and Mark Reese stood on Wilson Road high atop Mountain Shadows and looked at a billowing plume of white and black smoke churning from what would become the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.

    Both men shook their heads.

    They spoke of the charred dreams that would be left behind when the clouds of smoke and ash lifted. They talked of the devastation awaiting Black Forest residents returning to their homes and the surrounding landscape. They shuddered at the thought of the months and years to come rebuilding.

    “It’s just such a tragedy,” Hausman said, as Reese nodded agreement.

    Hausman and Reese know well what they were talking about.

    On June 26, 2012, residents of Mountain Shadows found themselves confronting a tornado of fire that flew down the foothills, killing 2, destroying 347 homes and forcing the evacuation of 32,000.

    On June 26, 2012, residents of Mountain Shadows found themselves confronting a tornado of fire that flew down the foothills, killing 2, destroying 347 homes and forcing the evacuation of 32,000.

    Reese lost his home one year ago, June 26, when the Waldo Canyon fire exploded down the foothills in a tornado of fire and smoke that hurled burning embers into Mountain Shadows, igniting pines and scrub oak and 1980s-era houses with their wood shake roofs and cedar siding.

    The inferno was visible for miles and to millions of television viewers nationwide who watched in disbelief as home after home erupted in flames and cars exploded amid the 2,500-degree heat.

    Before winds died and allowed firefighters to go on the offensive, the Waldo Canyon fire had killed two, destroyed 347 homes and forever changed how we look at fire. At its peak, 32,000 people were evacuated in an apocalyptic scene that saw six lanes of traffic streaming out of the foothills in a desperate attempt to get across Interstate 25.

    Millions watched on television nationwide June 26, 2012, as Mountain Shadows was incinerated by the inferno known as the Waldo Canyon fire.

    Millions watched on television nationwide June 26, 2012, as Mountain Shadows was incinerated by the inferno known as the Waldo Canyon fire.

    In terms of structures lost, it was the worst wildfire in Colorado history … until the Black Forest fire came along and killed two, destroyed 511 homes and consumed 14,280 acres.

    Reese knows all about the terror of evacuation, accepting the loss of his home, the frustration of dealing with insurance and finally the decision of whether to move or rebuild.

    Reese and his wife, Joanie, decided to rebuild, joining about half the residents in returning to the foothills neighborhood. As of June 25,
    the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department has issued 200 rebuilding permits for Mountain Shadows. Most were filed by original owners, though some are not.

    The Reeses are among 78 families who have been issued certificates of occupancy for their new homes. When we met June 12, the Reeses were still getting settled in their new home, moving furniture and working on their landscaping. It’s a beautiful place, built with “ignition-resistant materials” under strict new building codes designed to prevent a repeat of the 2012 tragedy.

    Shockingly, some Mountain Shadows residents stayed behind despite evacuation orders while others snuck in to film the inferno on June 26, 2012.

    Shockingly, some Mountain Shadows residents stayed behind despite evacuation orders while others snuck in to film the inferno on June 26, 2012.

    Hausman knows what Black Forest fire victims face from a different perspective. He is chief financial officer of Campbell Homes, which rebuilt the Reeses’ home on Wilson Road. Hausman also has the perspective of someone who built a community only to watch it burn and now struggle to rebuild.

    Turns out, Hausman built Mountain Shadows. Not every house. But he and his family transformed it from a cattle ranch into a residential community.

    And Hausman was still clearly a bit stunned at his own role in the whole Mountain Shadows story.

    As he was researching Mountain Shadows covenants, Hausman was startled to see a familiar signature at the bottom of the 25-year-old documents that govern life and dictate building materials, paint colors, landscaping and more in the subdivision on Colorado Springs’ west edge.

    “I had signed them myself,” said Hausman, 64. “I was kind of surprised to see my own signature.”

    Most of 347 homes in Mountain Shadows destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire were reduced to ash and concrete foundations after the June 26, 2012, fire roared into the westside Colorado Springs neighborhood.

    Most of 347 homes in Mountain Shadows destroyed in the Waldo Canyon fire were reduced to ash and concrete foundations after the June 26, 2012, fire roared into the westside Colorado Springs neighborhood.

    It brought back memories of a different time when he was leading a different company.

    It was 1977, when he was managing partner of Ridge Development Co., a partnership of 11 brothers and sisters based in Pueblo who had grown up in the development and construction business.

    At the time, Hausman said he learned that the Wilson Ranch was for sale and he began negotiations with Don Wilson and his son-in-law, Russ Wolfe, for the rolling ranchland that climbed into the foothills.

    “It was a reasonably complex negotiation,” Hausman recalled. “Don Wilson was elderly, and I dealt mostly with Russ Wolfe.”

    Perhaps complicating the deal was the fact it wasn’t something Wilson really wanted. He was very attached to the land that he bought in 1947 when it was known as the Douglas Homestead.

    Chuckwagon dinners replaced cattle as the primary source of income at the Flying W Ranch.

    Chuckwagon dinners replaced cattle as the primary source of income at the Flying W Ranch.

    He eventually, reluctantly agreed to sell to Hausman and his family.

    It took a year to complete the purchase of 1,837 acres in a deal worth about
    $10 million, Hausman said. The family kept about 800 acres for the tourist business and their private homes.

    It took another year of work by landscape architects and lawyers and others for the project to take shape.

    Almost immediately he sold 230 acres to developers of Oak Valley Ranch on the north end of the ranch. And he sold 60 acres to a company that would build the high-tech campus now occupied by Verizon.

    Then Hausman spent the next 15 years or so leading Ridge as it developed Mountain Shadows into “A Place to Live,” as its early slogan beckoned.

    “It was a magnificent piece of property,” Hausman said. “The concept was to make the development fit the
    topography.”

    Marian and Russ Wolfe in promotional photos for the Flying W Ranch in the 1950s.

    Marian and Russ Wolfe in promotional photos for the Flying W Ranch in the 1950s.

    On Jan. 4, 1979, the City Planning Commission approved its master plan for Mountain Shadows where Ridge intended to build 6,310 homes for 18,000 residents along with four elementary schools and a junior high. It envisioned town homes and apartments and commercial development, as well, on streets named “Wilson” and “Chuckwagon” and “Flying W Ranch” among others.

    In December 1980, Ridge launched phase one of the project for 100 homes on 50 acres. The initial homes would range from $80,000 to $200,000. And the list of builders included 16 prominent companies including familiar names such as Bach Development Co./Steve Bach Homes as well as Cullen, Gendron and Veitch.

    The initial projections for homes and population were never met, and retired city planner James Mayerl knows why. He recalled that interest rates in the late 1970s were double-digit and money was harder to borrow.

    The Flying W Ranch in a 1960s file photo.

    The Flying W Ranch in a 1960s file photo.

    But as Ridge broke ground on new subdivisions and interest rates dropped in the mid-1980s, plans changed.

    “Buying a house became easier,” Mayerl said. “As interest rates went down, they changed the master plan to eliminate much of the higher-density town homes and condos. It was market-driven response.”

    He said many of the buyers were young families who wanted large, two-story homes. And they became the norm. Erin McCauley, a current city planner, said she’s noticing a trend among those rebuilding in Mountain Shadows that is just the opposite.

    “A lot of ranch homes are being built,” she said. “The people who were 30 then are 60 now. They want homes without stairs. They want to downsize. They don’t want two stories.”

    In fact, that’s exactly the situation with the house Hausman’s company rebuilt this year for the Reeses on Wilson Road.

    “We were thinking about selling the lot and moving,” Mark Reese said. “Then we saw a Campbell floor plan that was perfect for us. I’ve been in construction for years. My knees aren’t so hot anymore. We wanted all one-level living. It worked out really sweet.”

    A year later, the Waldo Canyon fire is the subject of an exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. It includes items like this charred street sign at the center of the burn zone.

    A year later, the Waldo Canyon fire is the subject of an exhibit at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. It includes items like this charred street sign at the center of the burn zone.

    Reese said that when they bought their home 15 years ago, there wasn’t a lot of concern about wildfire.

    Mayerl said it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar when the subdivision was launched. New building codes about building density and defensible space in hillside areas didn’t take shape until the early 1990s incorporating lessons learned in a massive Oakland, Calif., hillside fire.

    Hausman said he doesn’t recall any talk of wildfire threat.

    That’s one reason the review of those 25-year-old covenants was so jarring. Hausman never dreamed they would play a key role in the destruction brought by the Waldo Canyon fire. But consider this Gazette-Telegraph story from 1987 touting Mountain Shadows construction rules.

    “Covenants will require native-type building materials such as shake shingles, cedar siding,” the story said. “Landscaping, too, will be required to follow the natural foothill terrain hosting scrub oak, pinons and native grasses.”

    Temperatures generated by the Waldo Canyon fire were so hot the glass on this picture melted inside a home in Mountain Shadows.

    Temperatures generated by the Waldo Canyon fire were so hot the glass on this picture melted inside a home in Mountain Shadows.

     

    Of course, wood shake roofs are now illegal to build in Colorado Springs. And all new homes, like the one Hausman’s company built for the Reeses, must meet strict building codes including Class A roofing materials, ignition-resistant materials instead of wood decking, stucco instead of wood siding among other requirements.

    Hausman can hardly believe what he watched a year ago along with everyone else when the Waldo Canyon fire exploded.

    “What a tragedy,” he said repeatedly. “The loss of life. The people who lost everything but what they had on their backs. The old-growth vegetation that was lost. The trees we planted — more than 1,000 ourselves as well as all the homeowners who were required to plant two evergreens and other trees.”

    And those covenants he was proud of and was sure would guarantee a beautiful, high-quality subdivision for years to come?

    Museum 043“One of the obvious things is the shake shingle roofs,” he said. “They were very much in vogue at the time. Turns out that was one of the things that caused a lot of properties to start on fire easily. I always loved them. I thought they were beautiful.”

    His voice trailed off.

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    A HISTORY OF
    MOUNTAIN SHADOWS

    Before it was among the most desirable neighborhoods in town, Mountain Shadows was known as the Douglas Homestead, a rolling ranch that stretched from Douglas Creek on the west side of Popes Bluff into the foothills and the edge of the Pike National Forest.

    Don Wilson, with his wife, Minnie, bought the ranch — about 2,500 acres — in 1947. They relocated from Kansas with their daughter, Marietta, accompanied by daughter Marian and her husband, Russ Wolfe.

    The Flying W Ranch in an undated file photo.

    The Flying W Ranch in an undated file photo.

    Together they created the Flying W Ranch, raised Hereford cattle as well as registered quarterhorses on the spread.

    Eventually, Marietta married Gene Reed, who took over the horse business while Wolfe concentrated on the cattle and his growing chuckwagon dinner business for tourists seeking an authentic ranch experience.

    By 1953, their focus shifted mainly to tourism as the cattle market waned.

    By the 1970s, the Flying W Ranch was famous nationwide for its singing cowboy Wranglers, the Old West town Wolfe built and its chuckwagon dinners.

    Meanwhile, houses were creeping west and the Flying W was at a crossroads.

    The cattle business — the original heart of the ranch — was jeopardizing the Flying W, Don Wilson told The Gazette-Telegraph in a 1984 interview.

    “There wasn’t anything I could do but sell the ranch,” said Wilson, who was 93 at the time. “I didn’t like the idea. But it got too expensive to operate. I wouldn’t have any money left to pay my income taxes if I didn’t sell. I really didn’t have much choice.”

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