Family property in Black Forest has changed, still hold memories

December 10, 2013 Updated: December 11, 2013 at 8:29 am
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A burned out truck sits off the side of Ravine Drive West in Black Forest Tuesday, December 10, 2013, six months after the most destructive fire in Colorado history killed two people and destroyed 488 homes. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette

Six months after the Black Forest fire roared through the community north of Colorado Springs, Alan Havens still lives in temporary quarters.

It's a common scene: burned out residents living in motorhomes and trailers, fending off the winter while they rebuild.

"Until two days ago, I was staying in a camper," Havens said. "But it just got too cold. You run out of propane in the middle of the night and you have to run out and change the bottle and the heater was overworked. It was like, alright, enough."

Area nonprofits have helped. Among them is Crosses for Losses, which created a makeshift shelter for Black Forest residents fighting the recent cold snap.

And the community - a tight knit group - has pitched in.

Havens, who lives on the property owned by his family, said he's been offered three double-wide mobile homes and two singles to move onto the property.

He's in limbo, living between a mobile home north of the five-acre parcel of Black Forest land and the 1970s fifth wheel on the property when it's not too cold. But then, the heater in the mobile home went out.

The property on Rusk Lane has been in his family since the 1970s when his parents bought it.

Even before then, Havens used to camp on the land when he was a boy.

"When my parents picked up the property it was like, cool, this was the place I used to camp," he said.

He moved in for good, with plans to eventually acquire the land, in the 1990s.

A house.

A shop filled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of excavation equipment for his business, Havens Excavating.

The fire took almost all of it.

"The fire wiped me out," Havens said. "I had one piece of equipment I was using at the time I saw the smoke and decided to run. That was the only thing I was able to save, a backhoe loader."

Gone were his motorgrader, trencher, skid loader, two dump trucks, all of his equipment trailers and accessories.

A pond and his well were filled with sediment in the flooding that followed the fire.

All he had was liability insurance, which did not cover his losses.

Fortunately, he's had plenty of work.

And he's acquired another skid loader with a loan from a customer.

Indeed, he's been so busy that he has not been able to clean up the family property - a job he planned to do himself.

"I'm making money right now," Havens said. "But there's so much I need to do on my property that I am not able to get done."

He plans to move a mobile homes onto the property, and decide where to go from there.

This is not the land his father bought more than 40 years ago and the fire's destruction has put everything on hold.

"It was always my ultimate dream to own this piece of land," Havens said.

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