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Operation Burn Scar: Community gathering volunteers to help Black Forest veteran clean up property

Posted at 12:54 PM, Aug 23, 2021

BLACK FOREST — It's been eight years since the Black Forest Fire.

"I was in town doing my volunteer work with the refuges, and I had no idea this was even happening until late in the afternoon," said Dale Gardner.

When he tried getting home to save his belongings, the road had already been blocked off at Woodmen.

"They wouldn't let anyone else come in because of the danger. I was desperate to get all of my papers so I went clear around the forest to Walker Road and came in from the North. There were people there trying to keep you out but I told them what I needed and they let me through. I headed down this way and saw the fire burning, cars burning, and trees burning," said Gardner.

The 74-year-old ended up turning around, losing everything in the fire.

"My house was burned, my shop was burned, everything was gone," said Gardner.

Throughout the years, he's been cleaning up the downed trees and scrap metal from his workshop.

"I did haul, I think it was a total of four great big roll-offs of junk and metal when it first happened," said Gardner.

But recent back problems have made it near impossible.

"I've ended up with two back surgeries. I went to my back surgeon a couple of weeks ago and she told me that the problems in my legs are a result of pinched nerves in my back and I need another surgery," said Gardner. "I can work but I'm slow and I have to be careful not to aggravate everything."

Now county code enforcement is forcing him to get it cleaned up.

"They told me someone reported me, and they have to come out and inspect what needs to be done," said Gardner.

All downed trees must be chopped into logs and pieces of scrap metal must be removed, but the community is rallying to help.

"When you hear a veteran is in need. I don't think anybody asks the motive or the reason. If they are willing to voice that they need help originally, that's all I need to hear," said Smith.

He's organizing a massive cleanup event this weekend (Aug. 28), also known as Operation Burn Scar.

"I'm hoping we get it in one day, I'm almost certain that there will be enough people out here to do that," said Smith.

He's mapped out the area with his drone to see what needs to be done.

"I was taking a look at the number of trees and cleanup sites. I want to be able to flag or cone collection points for firewood that needs to be chopped and collection points for all of the scrap metal," said Smith.

Big tasks that will require a big team.

"We are looking for basically anybody. Civilians, the military, anybody who's a veteran, could be on active duty. I'm suggesting if anyone has chainsaws, loaders, or skid steers bring them because the more the merrier," said Smith.

There will be food and drinks provided for those who volunteer. Anyone interested in signing up can reach out to Zachary Smith at