Cleanup still on 3 years after Black For­est blaze

Vol­un­teers must take pre­cau­tions with old trees.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By The Gazette

colorado springs» Crews are still work­ing to clean up dam­age done by the Black For­est fire three years ago and to stop a sim­i­lar blaze from oc­cur­ring again.

Burned, black­ened skele­tons of trees threaten to break off and in­jure vol­un­teers work­ing to pre­vent fu­ture wild­fires.

Black For­est To­gether Vol­un­teer Co­or­di­na­tor Kather­ine Richards says the burn zone from the 2013 blaze that con­sumed more than 22 square miles and de­stroyed more than 500 homes still looks close to the same as it did after the fire was con­tained. Charred trees lit­ter the burn area and have since be­come frag­ile and prone to break­ing.

“The burn zone “still looks very much the same — a lot of burned, black­ened trees still stand­ing,” Richards said. “Many of them are start­ing to break off at the top if there’s a lot of wind ... they’re frac­tur­ing eas­ily, which makes it dan­ger­ous for any­body who goes up and tries to cut a tree. You put a saw on the tree, and the vi­bra­tions may cause parts of the tree to come hurtling down on you.”

This year, more than 1,000 Black For­est To­gether vol­un­teers have worked on more than 70 projects, in­clud­ing clear­ing more than 170 acres of land. Since the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­cep­tion, vol­un­teers have put in more than 40,000 hours cut­ting down trees or saw­ing off limbs, chip­ping the wood and haul­ing it away.

Vol­un­teers work on ero­sion prob­lems that come with clear­ing trees and shrub­bery, and plant seedlings that help re­vi­tal­ize the for­est.

“Even three years after the fire, there’s still a lot of work that is be­ing done here in the com­mu­nity,” said Lori Trechter, a grant writer for Black For­est To­gether.

Richards said vol­un­teer in­ter­est is dwin­dling as mem­o­ries of the blaze fade. She said the great­est im­pact comes when large groups, such as Air Force Academy cadets, come for vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“A lot of the vol­un­teers are not that in­ter­ested any­more, or they’ve got other things to do,” she said. “It’s kind of slowed down the progress.”

A struc­ture burns on the hori­zon near Black For­est Road in the midst of the Black For­est Fire on June 12, 2013. Photos by He­len H. Richard­son, Den­ver Post file

A rac­coon is carved in a burned tree along Black For­est Road.

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