CommunityColorado Living


Man’s win in contest helping clear damage from Black Forest Fire

Posted at 5:28 AM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 11:03:38-04

COLORADO SPRINGS – It’s now been 6 years since the Black Forest Fire burned through Southern Colorado. News5’s Shayla Girardin brings us the story of one man who is doing everything he can to restore the community.

Out of hundreds of applicants, Neil Behnke won the John Deere ‘Small Machines, Big Impact’ competition.

Neil had been using his personal truck to help folks clear the area for years. For winning the contest, he chose to take home a tractor that he could use to help the community remove trees safer and faster.

“Before it was manual labor. It was people picking it up off the ground and feeding it into a chipper, load after load. Now we own a piece of equipment that the machine will just mulch over the trees and the slash, ” explains Behnke.

John Deere tractor
Neil Behnke now uses this machine to clear debris from the 2013 Black Forest Fire.

Black Forest Fire

  • 14,280 acres burned
  • 500+ homes destroyed
  • 2 people killed

The evacuation zone during the 9 days to contain the fire included more than 94,000 acres where 13,000 homes stood and 38,000 people lived.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the Royal Gorge Fire which destroyed much of the visitors center and attractions at the park in Fremont County. It took more than a year for the park to rebuild an open for visitors.