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Revised Black Forest assessment: 486 homes lost

July 9, 2013 Updated: July 10, 2013 at 9:57 am
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photo - At the home of Mark and Lisa Ruth, friends and fellow members of the Faith Presbyterian Church helped the couple to clean up their property June 22, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
At the home of Mark and Lisa Ruth, friends and fellow members of the Faith Presbyterian Church helped the couple to clean up their property June 22, 2013. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett) 

The Black Forest fire destroyed 486 homes in June - down from the previously reported 511- according to a new and final figure calculated by the El Paso County Assessor's Office on Tuesday.

Thus far, the Black Forest fire cost $85,442,052 of damage to homes, said Assessor Mark Lowderman. Lowderman has yet to complete assessments of damaged outbuildings, commercial buildings and trees, which he says could bump the total damage value until it rivals the $121 million in damages to Mountain Shadows last summer.

"It wouldn't surprise me if we approach that," he said, of the total damages in Black Forest.

Lowderman expects to have the rest of the damage numbers by next week, at the latest, he said. Until then, "it's too early to tell" exactly how damaging the Black Forest fire was, he said.

Along with the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department and sheriff's office, the assessor's office has spent the past month calculating the damages wrought by the Black Forest fire. It also killed two people and scorched more than 14,000 acres.

Rather than count home damage by addresses, as the sheriff's office did, the assessors office counted damage by parcels, which is more accurate, Lowderman said.

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

Twenty-five of the 486 homes destroyed were mobile homes, and Lowderman counted 30 damaged detached garages and 37 damaged homes, up from the sheriff's estimate of 28 damaged homes.

Lowderman and his staff will spend the week finishing up other damage calculations, such as damage to commercial buildings, damage to outbuildings as well as tree damages. Lots with totally destroyed trees hit by crown fire will have their value reduced by 30 percent, Lowderman said. Some lots will have to be re-evaluated later, when it will be apparent which trees survived. Lowderman expects the tree damages to push the total number up, as each damaged lot could drop significantly in value.

Acknowledging the urge to compare the damages wrought by the Waldo Canyon fire with those in Black Forest, Lowderman stressed that the two areas were vastly different. The median home values in Mountain Shadows, where 347 homes burned last summer, were higher than those in Black Forest. The Black Forest homes were also eclectic, ranging from mobile homes to modern stucco homes.

"There was everything from over a million dollar, to very custom homes, to little cabins built in the 1920s," Lowderman said.

Black Forest also had two things Mountain Shadows did not: Many outbuildings and many, trees. The number of homes destroyed has fluctuated during the past month, while the sheriff's office, assessors officials, as well as Pikes Peak Regional Building Department employees struggled to amass totals.

"It had been up to 550," said Roger Lovell, a deputy building official with the department. "It's so hard to tell. A contractor called me to say that he moved a new modular onto a site (in Black Forest). The fire came through and destroyed it. So was that a house or not? How it did get counted? It's just really hard to differentiate just what a dwelling is."

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