About 500 people attend Black Forest recovery meeting

June 28, 2013 Updated: June 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Officials and Black Forest residents took a couple of hours Friday night to sift through the issues facing them as they head into that uncertain area called wildfire recovery.

About 500 people attended the first of several subcommittee meetings at Mountain Springs Church. The Black Forest fire destroyed more than 500 structures and burned more than 15,000 acres.

The clean-up and recovery process committee, headed by County Commissioner Amy Lathen, is aimed at helping residents with debris removal, safety and viability of burned trees, permitting, and well and septic concerns.

The committee's goal, she said, "is to speed up and simplify your recovery."

Resource lists, tip sheets and special bags for ash removal were snatched up from the church lobby.

Top concerns included missing, burned or melted well heads that must be capped to protect water,

removal of debris that can leach into water supplies, removal of asbestos from damaged older homes and what to do with foundations or concrete slabs.

"We've had a lot of questions and people have said: 'I'm just going to go out there and dig a hole and bury it,'" said Mark Gebhart, deputy director of El Paso County Development Services. "We strongly recommend against that. There are state and county rules regarding this."

Some of the debris could include chemicals from garages and asbestos that "are not good things to put in the ground," he said.

Slabs, Gebhart said, can be reused or covered, but there are rules about that including such things as how much soil is put on top and revegetation.

Trees were also among the top concerns, said Colorado state district forester Larry Long.

"Right now, we're just being inundated with phone calls," he said. "The one that we're getting the most is, 'Is my tree going to die?'"

If the tree is completely black from top to bottom with no needles, "it's going to die," he said.

The good news is that they aren't going to blow over or fall because Ponderosa Pines, the area's dominant species, have deep root systems "and they're going to stand for a long time."

If there are green needles on the tree, "I would tell you just wait," Long said.

Among the factors to survival of the trees is the amount of moisture the area gets, he said.

Those attending Friday's meeting also were concerned about the cost of permits to rebuild.

Bob Croft, with the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, said that a debris removal permit is not required for outbuildings such as a detached garage, shed, storage and agricultural building. A permit for a residence is required, however, and will cost $34.

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