Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

SIDE STREETS: 'If Mountain Shadows can burn that bad, what hope is there for us?'

BILL VOGRIN Updated: August 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

When Woodmoor resident Carolyn Streit-Carey watched the Waldo Canyon fire kill two and destroy nearly 350 homes in Mountain Shadows, she said she had a troubling thought: “This could be us.”

Neighbor Jim Woodman had a different, more frightening thought: “If Mountain Shadows can burn that bad, what hope is there for us?”

Both are worried because they know Woodmoor’s 3,000 homes are built amid tightly packed, towering pines and dense scrub oak — potential wildfire conditions far more dangerous than existed in Mountain Shadows, they say.

Streit-Carey and Woodman want the rest of Woodmoor to awaken to that fact. And they want their neighbors to act.

In hopes of spurring a united effort, the Woodmoor Improvement Association has scheduled community meetings for 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Woodmoor Barn and invited Tri-Lakes Monument Fire District officials to discuss “Why the Mountain Shadows Destruction Can Happen in Woodmoor.”

There’s a cheery topic.

Fire Marshal John Vincent and Battalion Chief Brian Jack will try to motivate residents to get serious about embracing national Firewise protection techniques and creating “defensible space” around their homes.

Vincent brings a unique perspective, Woodman said, because he fought the Waldo Canyon fire.

Vincent was perched overlooking Queens Canyon, where the fire exploded down the foothills June 26.

He’ll have photos of the fire’s progression and its destructive power to give folks an idea of what could happen if a wildfire started in the unincorporated community east of Monument.

It will not be pretty, said Woodman, a retired forester and scientist whose specialty was forest ecology.

He shudders at the idea of fire erupting in Woodmoor’s 2,600 acres which feature trees overhanging wood shake roofs, wooden decks and thick underbrush.

“Two-thirds of Woodmoor is dense Ponderosa pine,” Woodman said. “If we ever got a fire going in Woodmoor, we’d lose a lot of homes.”

Even worse, Woodmoor is a maze of snaking roads and cul-de-sacs.

“This would be a nightmare to evacuate,” Streit-Carey said, suggesting the overgrown forest obscures visibility on the community’s winding roads.

They say it’s critical everyone attend the meetings and learn how they can help because fire protection must be a neighborhood effort.

“In Mountain Shadows, there were cul-de-sacs where six houses mitigated for wildfire and one didn’t,” Woodman said. “Fire reached that one house and spread to all the others.”

Worse, firefighters often drove past burning houses because they hadn’t created defensible space.

“This has to be a community-wide project,” Streit-Carey said. “We need to thin our forest and protect our homes.”

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