Black Forest residents can expect to see smokes at the center of the burn area for a few days more, said Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey. But residents should have no cause for alarm, he added.
The Black Forest fire took eastern El Paso County by storm more than two weeks ago, and the fire was extinguished last week. After Rich Harvey's Great Basin Incident Command Team left on June 13, the Black Forest fire was taken from the highest-priority, a Type 1 incident, to a lower priority, a Type 3 incident, said Harvey. By Tuesday, the Black Forest fire became a Type 4 incident - managed by local fire crews, with little to no danger of reigniting.
One of the last non-local crews to work the fire was the Juniper Valley crew, from the Buena Vista Correctional Facility, which was charged with keeping flames out of the unburned areas of the forest. Although the official burned acreage of the fire is 14,280 acres, only about 5,000 acres were totally destroyed, meaning there are plenty of vulnerable patches with grass and trees left to burn sprinkled throughout the burn area. A state-owned engine, with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, and a crew also spent the past few days chasing smoke reports, said Harvey.
Now, the Black Forest and Falcon Fire Departments are the only crews on smoke watch, in addition to their regular duties.
This week El Paso County Sheriff's Office dispatchers received several calls from residents who were still seeing smoke in the burn area.
"They'll still pop up because of all the pine needle duff," Harvey said, of the thick layer of pine needles on the forest floor, which can smolder for a long time. "There's going to be some smokes. They tend not to be of any consequence."
On Tuesday evening dispatchers received several concerned calls reporting smoke in the area that sent a group of firefighters searching for a potential fire, but none was found. The puffs of black smoke might instead have been coming from the heavy equipment working at the center of the burn area, especially around Swan and Vollmer Roads, to cut down trees, Harvey said.
If residents see what appears to be smoke, they should call 911, especially if they see open flames, said Harvey.