Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Church volunteers help sift Black Forest fire rubble

By Matt Steiner Updated: July 10, 2013 at 9:36 am

Ralph and Claire Kincade wandered about their Black Forest home Tuesday morning helping out where they could among blackened ruins.

The heavy lifting at their property on Remington Road, however, was being done by a small army of volunteers wielding chainsaws and shovels and wearing hard hats and breathing masks. One man operated a small backhoe.

The group from New Mexico was one of eight Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief teams working at 12 sites across the Black Forest burn area Tuesday.

The teams were helping people clear away ash-laden foundations and remove hazard trees.

Ralph Kincade paused to thank God for the troop of workers at his 10-acre property.

"These folks coming out here are a real boost for us," the 67-year-old homeowner said, explaining that he and his wife had been depressed since June 12 when their home was destroyed.

Claire Kincade said a family friend, who is a firefighter with Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, drove by the Kincade home to survey the damage.

"He was on duty but got very emotional," Claire said. "He called Ralph and the only words he could say over the phone were, 'It is gone.'"

The Black Forest fire destroyed 486 homes while burning more than 14,000 acres north of Colorado Springs.

As Claire Kincade surveyed the destruction, she held what was left of her family's leather-working tools that she had pulled from the ruins late last week. The tools are nothing more than an oddly shaped clump of melted metal.

The 67-year-old said there is "nothing left. It's all gone."

She walked past a group of belongings covered with a gray tarp. The pile had been rescued from the home by firefighters.

Ralph Kincade said the fire crews "risked their lives" to save as much as they could. The couple hadn't yet looked under the tarp, however, and didn't know what was salvaged.

"We haven't had the courage to look yet," Claire Kincade said.

The team of volunteers at the Kincade home Tuesday was there to wrap up the job after another crew from Georgia did the initial sifting, crew chief Walter Takach said.

Takach, a 68-year-old retired insurance agent, has been with the relief organization for three years. He has worked hurricanes and floods and gained fire experience after a Bastrop, Texas, blaze in 2011 destroyed more than 1,700 homes.

The Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief was formed in 1967 after hurricane Beulah struck the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas Coast.

The organization of more than 90,000 volunteers springs into action to help victims of almost any kind of disaster.

The organization's volunteers had already put in more than 7,500 man hours in the Black Forest burn area by Tuesday.

The group targets the uninsured, but Southern Baptist relief leaders said nobody with a destroyed home would be turned away unless their insurance company decided to handle the work.

The Kincades are insured and expect their house to be rebuilt.

Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief expects to be in the area until the end of July.

"A lot of people don't know where to turn, where to start," Takach said. "So we give them a light at the end of the tunnel."

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