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Black Forest residents encouraged to work together to mitigate fire danger

February 7, 2015 Updated: February 7, 2015 at 8:23 pm
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photo - A firefighter fights a blaze in a detached garage in the Black Forest area in Colorado on Table Rock Rd. on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.  (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)
A firefighter fights a blaze in a detached garage in the Black Forest area in Colorado on Table Rock Rd. on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette) 

With record high temperatures, gusty winds and grass fires returning to the region in recent weeks, it was fitting that about 100 people turned out to Black Forest Saturday to talk about fire mitigation.

"Another fire is on it's way, it's inevitable," Cody Poole, a Black Forest firefighter, told the crowd.

"We all have a second chance to fix this and make it much better to avoid a disaster. The question is: what are you going to do with your second chance?"

The fifth Forest Recovery Symposium organized by Black Forest Together featured a collection of speakers who urged property owners to work together to prevent another major fire by mitigating vegetation around their homes. It also was a way to connect residents with a handful of representatives from forestry management businesses who were also at Saturday's meeting.

The 70,000-acre Black Forest area includes property with houses nestled in the timberland in unincorporated areas northeast of Colorado Springs. In June 2013 a massive fire destroyed 488 homes and killed two people in the region. It was the most destructive fire in Colorado history.

Those who spoke Saturday said years of calculated mitigation are needed to lessen the fire threat.

"It's going to take generations to make this happen," said Scott MacDonald, Black Forest Together's forest recovery program director.

"Our forest as it dries - and it will - will be at risk again."

In addition to encouraging those in the audience to work together on mitigation projects, MacDonald also discussed a $136,000 grant the organization received to help property owners with the costs of doing so.

The Colorado Department of Natural Resources grant will help pay for the work for for some who remove green vegetation around their homes as a way to minimize fire danger. The goal is to mitigate at least 125 acres with the funds, MacDonald said.

Len Lankford, a private forestry consultant who attended Saturday's meeting, echoed the advice that residents can't be complacent about the threat of another extreme wildfire to the region. Even after the 2013 fire, the level of mitigation work needed in the region to reduce the threat is "immense," he said.

"It still looks the same or worse."

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Contact Stephen Hobbs: 636-0275

Twitter @bystephenhobbs

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