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Jun 29, 2013 2:22 AM by Tony Spehar - tspehar@koaa.com

Black Forest residents gather for meeting on recovery process

Hundreds of people affected by the Black Forest Fire gathered at an information meeting held by El Paso County at Mountain Springs Church on Friday evening to learn about issues regarding clean-up and recovery.

The fire has forever changed the lives of those who have lived in Black Forest for years.

"Very sad, I've lived there for almost 30-years and it's definitely made a very sad mark on the landscape," said resident JJ Kane. "My house is safe, but houses on our street are burned down, my barn burned down, almost everybody else's burned down even if their house is safe...I thought we could just throw what's left of the barn into a dumpster and be done with it apparently it's not that simple."

The process of cleaning-up and moving on is, of course, far from simple. A number of the 511 homes destroyed in the fire were built before 1988 and thus had asbestos and other hazardous materials inside them that burned. Ash from homes and other structures that burned cannot be discarded simply, just cleaning the debris up requires residents to wear masks and protective clothing. Officials handed out special plastic bags that would keep ash from blowing about at Friday's meeting.

Though officials learned much about disaster recovery from 2012's Waldo Canyon Fire, the aftermath of the Black Forest Fire has its own unique complications. For example, many of the homes in the Black Forest area depend on water from wells and use septic systems and both could've been contaminated during the fire.

"It is an extraordinarily complicated process to go through the magnitude of such a loss," explained El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen. "So there are a lot of issues that are coming up."

The recovery process is expected to take months at least, but JJ Kane and other residents say it will all be worth it to see Black Forest rise from the ashes.

"It'll take a long time and I'm sure people will just won't be able to deal with it and will leave, but eventually it will," Kane said.

More information on clean-up safety can be found at hwww.elpasocountyhealth.org/services/public-health-wildfire-information

 

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