Having seen an ambulance tear off with an injured woman, multiple cars flipped near the Cliff House, and refrigerators mixed in with logs and debris near the Briarhurst Manor Estate, Indy reporter J. Adrian Stanley affirms that Friday's flood off the Waldo Canyon burn scar is "much worse" than any to date this summer.
As of about 9:30 p.m., reports are that at least three people have been injured. KOAA is reporting that Canon Avenue evacuees won't be allowed to return home until tomorrow; there is a shelter set up at the Historic Manitou Congregational Church, 103 Pawnee Ave.
Below are some photos Adrian took while walking through town both during and after the storm. One thing not pictured, but that she reports, is that some properties damaged in the July 1 flood were further harmed today. In fact, in some cases, the Dumpsters that were on-site as part of their cleanup efforts were toppled and sent into the homes themselves.
Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., has been an ardent supporter of forest health and wildland firefighting, and he continues to probe for more information to enhance how fires are managed.
A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Udall wrote a letter Monday to Northern Command leader Gen. Charles Jacoby and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell asking for a retrospective for the Black Forest Fire.
Udall, along with Colorado's other Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, instigated a major study following the Waldo Canyon Fire that investigates the ecological, social and operational issues involved in fighting that blaze, which claimed 347 homes in Colorado Springs last year.
In his latest effort, Udall thanks Jacoby and Tidwell for their participation in the Black Forest Fire and what further lessons might be learned. He also asked them to explain procedural changes that made the rapid response possible.
From a news release:
Udall has been a leading voice for ensuring that Colorado and the West have adequate resources to prepare for the threat of wildfire, including pressing the U.S. Air Force to quickly transfer and repurpose excess aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service to fight wildfires. He also led the fight to ensure the U.S. Forest Service was able to cut through red tape and secure seven next-generation air tankers. One of the next-generation air tankers Udall fought to acquire helped fight the Black Forest Fire.
Udall also pushed to pass a bipartisan amendment to the U.S. Senate's 2014 budget to allocate $100 million more for wildland firefighting and he successfully secured federal funds to repair drinking-water supplies damaged by 2012's Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.
Here's his letter to Jacoby and Tidwell:
The votes are in among state Senate District 11's Republican heavyweights, and former Colorado Springs City Councilor Bernie Herpin is their choice to fight Senate President John Morse in a recall election.
Herpin took 62.5 percent of the vote, leaving political newcomer Jaxine Bubis with just 37.5 percent.
Here's the release from El Paso County GOP director of operations Daniel Cole:
Today, Senate District 11 officers and precinct leaders selected Bernie Herpin as the El Paso County Republican Party’s nominee in the Senate District 11 recall election.
By the terms of the agreement both candidates signed on June 28, Jaxine Bubis is expected to withdraw from the race.
51 individuals were eligible to vote in this process. 30 voted for Bernie Herpin and 18 for Jaxine Bubis, for a total of 48 votes cast. The process was administered by the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder at the expense of the El Paso County Republican Party. Electors voted in person at El Paso County Republican Party Headquarters between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM today, July 9.
Chairman Jeff Hays stated, “Bernie Herpin and Jaxine Bubis ran against each other for the Republican nomination, but each agreed the other would be a huge improvement over Sen. John Morse. They were both willing to put their campaigns on the line in order to maximize our opportunity to make the recall effort successful.
“Congratulations to Bernie Herpin for winning the Republican nomination. The El Paso County Republican Party looks forward to supporting his campaign.
“We owe Jaxine Bubis respect and a debt of gratitude. She was willing to subordinate her personal goals to the imperative of removing John Morse from office and replacing him with a senator more attentive to his constituents. You’re taking one for the team, Jaxine. Thank you.
“As we move forward, I urge El Paso County Republicans to band together and focus on recalling John Morse. We’re talking about a legislator so extreme, so out-of-touch, that Rep. Ed Vigil, a Democrat from Fort Garland, called one of Morse’s bills this session ‘crazy’ and ‘absolutely nuts.’ Recalling John Morse is not a question of Democrat vs. Republican. It’s a question of sanity vs. insanity.”
For more on both Herpin and Bubis, see Wednesday's Independent.
The estimate for structure damage caused by the Black Forest Fire has been revised to $90 million from a higher figure provided earlier this week by El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman.
"The problem isn't necessarily with the data gathered by the deputies during the fire," Lowderman says. "The problem was on an IT level. When they tried to update the data, they had multiple people doing it, and when they merged the data, they duplicated some of the data."
But Lowderman called the $90 million figure "very, very preliminary," because his crew has physically inspected only 500 of 2,400 lots so far.
"To really get an accurate number, it's gonna take us a while," he says, noting 15 of his full-time employees are inspecting and reappraising the burn area. He says he expects the $90 million figure to grow.
Just like last year for owners of Mountain Shadows homes that burned in the Waldo Canyon Fire, tax bills on damaged or destroyed homes will be adjusted. "Everything will be on [tax rolls] at 100 percent from January 1 to June 10," Lowderman says. "Then from June 11 to Dec. 31, it will be a land value for six months of the year."
Although the removal of so many homes from the tax rolls might not pose a large hit on revenue for the county, Lowderman says it might be a different story for the Black Forest Fire Department, which relies heavily on residential property instead of commercial property.
The structure-damage total for losses in the Waldo Canyon Fire was $121.5 million, Lowderman says.
Meantime, late yesterday, El Paso County set up a Long Range Recovery Planning Committee to oversee recovery, restoration and rebuilding efforts within the Black Forest Burn area. The panel will be co-chaired by Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Amy Lathen.
“Information from this group will be disseminated via our normal communications channels and through the recently established HOA/neighborhood communication network,” Glenn said in a release.
These elected officials will be represented on the panel:
• US Senators Udall/Bennett's Office
• Congressman Doug Lamborn's Office
• State Senator Kent Lambert
• State House Representative Amy Stephens
• State House Representative Dan Norburg
• El Paso County Sheriff's Office
Here's a list of residents who have been named to the committee:
• Edward Bracken
• Donna Arkowski
• Carolyn Brown
• Judy von Ahlefeldt
• Leif Garrison
• Laura Carno
• Sean Perkins
A week after opening it, the American Red Cross has announced closure of its shelter for Black Forest Fire victims and evacuees. Here's the release, which at the bottom also includes a look at some of what the nonprofit organization has accomplished during the early start to this fire season.
Wildfire Update: Red Cross to Close Black Forest Shelter at Noon; Continues to Serve Residents at 4 Fixed Sites
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO., June 19, 2013, 11:30 a.m. — The American Red Cross will close its shelter at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument at noon today. Red Cross caseworkers, health workers and mental health experts will continue to provide people affected by the Black Forest fire with resources, emotional comfort, health services and recovery assistance at four fixed locations.
Last night, 5 evacuated individuals stayed overnight at the Red Cross shelters. All of those individuals have found other accommodations for tonight or are being assisted with accommodations by the Red Cross.
FIXED SERVICE DELIVERY SITES
Red Cross volunteers will distribute cleanup kits, water and snacks and offer informational resources, basic health services and emotional counseling at the following fixed locations:
· School in the Woods, 12002 Vollmer Rd., Colorado Springs, noon-5 p.m.
· Intersection of Black Forest Road and Burgess Road, noon-5 p.m.
· Intersection of Milam Road and Shoup Road, noon-5 p.m.
· Multi-agency Disaster Assistance Center, El Paso County Public Health, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Rd., 8 a.m. — 6 p.m.
Residents will be able to pick up cleanup supplies including items such as sifters, shovels, trash bags, work gloves, rakes, paper towels, and facemasks at all sites except the Disaster Assistance Center.
The Salvation Army will be providing snacks and meals at the School of the Woods and Milam Road locations.
PREPAREDNESS DURING RED FLAG CONDITIONS
Large portions of Colorado are under red flag warnings for high fire conditions. The Red Cross urges residents to take steps to be prepared; one thing people can do is download the free Red Cross Wildfire App, available in English or Spanish. The app puts help right in people’s hands, such as instant access to steps people should take before, during and after wildfires. Owners of Apple and Android devices can download the free app in the in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.
If a fire is threatening your neighborhood, you should listen to local media for updated fire
information and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Other steps include:
• Back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
• Confine your pets to one room so you can find them if you need to leave quickly.
• Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors.
• Use the recycle or recirculate mode on your air conditioner in your home or car. If you don’t have air conditioning and it’s too hot to stay inside with closed windows, seek shelter elsewhere.
More information on wildfire safety is available on the preparedness section of www.redcross.org.
Local Red Cross chapters have activated on-call rapid-response teams throughout the state so that the Red Cross can mobilize quickly to respond to any additional wildfires that may occur this summer.
RED CROSS SERVICES TO DATE: To date, the Red Cross and partner agencies have provided the following services:
· Opened and operated a total of eight separate shelters and evacuation centers in Monument, Colorado Springs, Kiowa, Cañon City, Walsenburg and Rifle, providing a total of 911 overnight stays.
· Distributed 1015 comfort kits containing hygiene items, toothbrushes and other basic essentials
· Registered 431 individuals in Safe and Well
· Served 9,652 meals and snacks (provided primarily by The Salvation Army)
· Made 365 health and mental health contacts with affected residents
· Made 517 health and mental health contacts with affected residents
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office issued this statement regarding the two people who died in the Black Forest Fire on June 11:
The Black Forest Fire has been the most devastating in Colorado history. In addition to more than 500 homes destroyed, two people lost their lives. Through a cooperative effort between Forensic Odontologist Dr. Joe Gentile and El Paso County Coroner Dr. Robert Bux and his staff, identity of the victims’ who lost their lives has been made. They are 52 year old Marc Allen Herklotz and his wife, 50 year old Robin Lauran Herklotz of 6720 Jicarilla Drive in Black Forest. We extend our deepest sympathy to the family and friends they leave behind.
The couple were long-time residents of Black Forest. According to Assessor's Office records, they bought their house in December 1992.
Sheriff Terry Maketa has said the couple perished after they returned to their home after first evacuating to retrieve property, saying, "It appears as though the individuals were in the garage," he told the media on Friday. "Their car doors were open, as though they were loading or grabbing last-minute things. And all indications were, from the evidence on scene, that they were planning to depart very quickly."
Sheriff Terry Maketa said at a noon news briefing that he would allow re-entry to the Black Forest Fire burn area to 1,365 more people today. But about 2,600 people remain under mandatory evacuation as fire crews continue to snuff hot spots.
Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey upped containment of the fire from 75 percent to 85 percent and said his team is starting to discuss demobilizing.
The fire has cost $7 million so far, Harvey said. Gov. John Hickenlooper allocated about $5 million on the fire's first day, and it's unclear whether he's added to that amount in light of the cost surpassing the original allotment. The fire isn't on federal land, so the state must pick up the tab, including the cost of Harvey's U.S. Forest Service Type 1 Team.
Maketa put the number of homes destroyed at 502 but predicted that would increase today as the El Paso County Assessor's Office advances its efforts to verify damaged homes.
Among those who will be allowed to re-enter today are residents of the Cathedral Pines area, among the most upscale of homes in Black Forest. That is to take place at 2 p.m., Maketa said.
As for areas along the most heavily damaged corridor of Shoup Road, residents will be allowed to visit their properties for three hours in shifts that will begin at 4 p.m., Maketa said.
Full containment of the fire is predicted for Thursday. For information, go to elpasoco.com.
Firefighters have contained three quarters of the Black Forest Fire, which burned 14,280 acres, claimed about 480 homes and killed two people.
According to the latest fire report, full containment is expected Thursday. The firefighting cost exceeds $5.5 million, and 1,130 firefighters remain on the fire, along with 101 engines, five bulldozers and two helicopters.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa provided the following update for evacuations:
Most areas north of Hodgen Rd. are now under pre-evacuation.
To include (areas now under pre-evacuation):
South of Walker Rd.
East of Bar X Rd. and Highland Estates Rd.
North of Hodgen Rd.
West of Winchester Rd.
North side of Morgan Rd.
North side of Hardy Rd.
This does not include the areas east of Winchester Rd., south of Morgan Rd. and south of Hardy Rd. Including the following roads north of Hodgen Rd:
(areas north of Hodgen Rd. still under mandatory evacuation)
West Goshawk Rd.
East Goshawk Rd.
Albert Ridge View
Residents trying to reenter will need to show their driver’s license or registration. Residents are encouraged to leave heavy equipment alone. Please do not remove the flags on your property. Those are a signal to first responders the area has been cleared for reentry.
Residents need to use the following reentry points:
From the west — use Hodgen Rd. or Walker Rd.
From the east — use Evans Rd. or McCune Rd.
From the north — use County Line Rd. to Black Forest Rd. or Meridian Rd.
Meridian Rd. North of Hodgen Rd. is now open.
The Royal Gorge Fire release below, from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team B, is as of 10 p.m. Thursday:
Highway 50 reopens and Evacuations lifted at Royal Gorge Fire
Cañon City, Colo. — Fire officials announced this evening that U.S. HWY 50 was reopened as of 8 p.m. All residents that were displaced from their homes during the evacuation from the Royal Gorge Fire were allowed to return home this evening at 8 p.m. Officials cautioned residents in the previously evacuated area that they will remain on a pre-evacuation notice should fire conditions change. Fire managers, working with cooperators, were also able to determine that the Royal Gorge Tourist Train can begin operations again, once the railway can evaluate when they will be able to resume normal activities. River access on the closed portion of the Arkansas River (from Spike Buck to Cañon City) will be re-evaluated tomorrow, as the incident managers strive to restore the important recreation features that have been impacted by the Royal Gorge Fire.
Today’s weather, along with the hard work of fire crews, assisted in efforts to restore access to the residential and recreation areas. Cooler temperatures, along with higher relative humidity and light winds kept fire activity to a minimum. The fire is currently estimated at 40 percent containment.
Forecasted weather for the next several days calls for continued cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Tomorrow, fire crews will continue to construct, secure and mop up containment lines around the fire’s perimeter.
Approximately 450 people attended tonight’s public meeting at the Cañon City High School. Officials were on hand to share the news that U.S. HWY 50 has been reopened and residents could return to their homes, as well as answer to questions from the public. Public Information Officers will be at Macon Plaza Friday to answer questions about the Royal Gorge Fire as the community welcomes the Ride the Rockies participants.
Royal Gorge Fire Statistics at a Glance:
Time/Date Started: June 11, 2013 approximately 1 p.m.
Location: Fremont County, Colorado
Cause: Under Investigation
Fuels: Piñon, Juniper, Sage Brush
Size: 3,162 acres
Resources Committed: Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team B, 2 Single Engine Air Tankers, 1 Very Large Air tanker, 2 Type-1 crews, 2 Type-2 crews, 1 Type-1 helicopter, 1 Type 3-helicopter, 5 engines, 1 dozer, and 2 water tenders
From counseling services to baby needs to gas cards, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is on call. Keep it in mind as needs arise.
Black Forest Honey owner and prominent local beekeeper John Hartley had left his house on Herring Road, north of Swan Road, Tuesday afternoon, headed for an errand at Phil Long Ford at Chapel Hills.
He didn't make it past Black Forest Regional Park before he was turned around and informed of the spreading Black Forest Fire.
His dog was with him, and he called his wife Donna, a local artist and muralist, to meet him back at the house.
Another beekeeper friend happened to be in the area and ducked in to check on the Hartleys, quickly helping them load some possessions into their vehicles — "papers and documents mostly, pictures and stuff," says John.
From the moment he'd been turned around to that hectic moment of fleeing, only an hour and a half had passed.
"We were lucky," says John, referring not only to getting out alive, but specifically being able to at least grab a few things, when many of his neighbors (with whom he's since talked from the nearby motel he's calling home) weren't able to grab anything.
The Hartleys had bought their home 30 years ago, in 1983. In ’89, John started launched Black Forest Honey.
He's since raised queens, become an active leader in the Pikes Peak Beekeepers club, done countless removals and captures of bee swarms, and grown his own hive count to around 165 recently.
At his home, he was forced to leave behind 35 hives that he's fairly certain all perished in the fire — each hive containing tens of thousands of bees — along with all of his beekeeping and removal equipment and a decent supply of new hive materials he stocked to sell other club members.
"I don't know — it's hard to tell if they swarmed out," he says. "That's the tendency when there's smoke, but the smoke was extremely bad and heavy. It was so fast and intense with the heat ...
"I just hoped and prayed that maybe they'd make it okay," he says. "It was my life, my wife's life — we got the dog ..."
Now, he or Donna are taking the time to regroup and begin organizing with their insurance companies. He says he has six months to decide whether to rebuild on that site or not. "We're gonna have to think about that," he says, "but we probably will."
This morning alone, John says, he fielded five swarm calls around the area that he had to refer to other club members. (Spring and early summer are the natural swarm times, when feral and managed hives tend to split at a maximum capacity.) Calling upon all the optimism today will allow him, he says, "We'll recover and come back. It's just a setback."
By now, we know that the Hartleys' is only one of at least 360 heartbreaking stories emerging from the Black Forest Fire. And nobody's attempting to equate the loss of bees here, and a livelihood at least temporarily, to the larger toll of home destruction and human displacement and trauma.
But to a guy like John Hartley, "It really hurts."
The Black Forest Fire has attained the dubious distinction of becoming the most destructive fire in Colorado history with the announcement today that it's claimed 360 homes in the rural bedroom community north of Colorado Springs.
As of 6 a.m. today, local firefighting forces are under the command of Rich Harvey's federal Type 1 fire team who arrived yesterday from Nevada. The team took charge of a 15,000-acre Black Forest Fire, which is burning through private and El Paso County land, NOT federal forest land that Type 1 teams normally oversee.
That means the state of Colorado, not the federal government, will foot the bill for the fire, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has allocated $5 million for the fire. That amount could grow, however, if firefighting needs outpace that allocation.
El Paso County Administrator Jeff Greene explains in an interview:
Based upon the updates the chair of the board [of county commissioners] and I received last night at 6 p.m. when the type team was fully integrating in the process and assuming control of operations, which officially occurred at 6 a.m. this morning, it was clearly defined that this would be a program administered by the state of Colorado. The government came through. Funds have already been allocated. And all expenses will be submitted to the state of Colorado through coordination with El Paso County.
During the morning news briefing, Maketa called the number of destroyed homes, at 360 as of 9 a.m. this morning, "staggering" and "shocking" and said the total probably will climb. That's because deputies have had difficulty getting into the burn area due to rekindled fires, he said. He described how layers of fuels, including pine needles, grass and pine cones reignite when a burst of wind comes through.
"Things look pretty well calmed down," he said. "Then a gust comes and the next thing you know, it's raging."
Maketa termed the wind the number one threat facing firefighters as the fire enters its third day of high temperatures, low humidity and erratic winds.
Fort Carson has sent two Chinook and two Black Hawk helicopters, while the National Guard has provided three Black Hawks and one smaller Lakota to be used by the command team to survey the fire, said Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback, who's serving as the liaison to Harvey's team.
Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the Air Force Academy also have joined in the fire fight with engines and other assets.
The National Guard also is helping patrol evacuated areas, Maketa said.
In related news, County Commissioner Darryl Glenn announced that El Pomar Foundation has provided $250,000 to help those who have been displaced by the fire.
Maketa repeated what he said on Wednesday about containment, saying officials haven't reached a point where they can confidently say any portion of the fire has been contained.
County officials have confirmed that the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center has opened as of this morning, at the Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. Here's info on what's available at that site:
The Disaster Assistance Center will bring together representatives of major insurance companies, El Paso County Public Health, healthcare providers, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, utilities providers, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Office of Emergency Management, grief counselors and local non-profits offering services to residents impacted by the Black Forest Fire.
“We learned from the Waldo Canyon Fire last year that citizens have a wide variety of needs,” said Commissioner Chair Dennis Hisey. “By bringing together state and local agencies and non-profit organizations with a lot of experience and expertise the Disaster Assistance Center can make a real difference.”
The Disaster Assistance Center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.
While they're still facing a "Red Flag Weather Warning, downed power lines, and active fire moving in stands of beetle killed trees" for Thursday, firefighters battling the Royal Gorge Fire can say they've got some containment.
Royal Gorge Fire reaches 20 percent containment
Key Facts as of 8:30 p.m.
· Fire size is estimated at 3,100 acres and 20 percent containment
· 20 structures have been lost
· The Royal Gorge Bridge is intact
The Royal Gorge Fire continues to burn west of Canon City in piñon and juniper forests. Fire behavior throughout the day was active with visible torching, spotting and running in heavy fuels.
All road closures and evacuations remain in place west of Canon City throughout the evening. Firefighters continue work to establish anchor points and build line around the fire. Road closures are in place to allow firefighters to operate safely in the area.
The Royal Gorge Rodeo grounds are available for those needing to shelter their livestock.
“We have made good progress on the fire today without any accidents or injuries thanks in large part to our many partners,” said Dennis Page, Incident Commander for the Royal Gorge Fire. “Crews from Canon City, Fremont County, and the State of Colorado are working alongside firefighters from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.”
Some challenges firefighters will face Thursday include a Red Flag Weather Warning, downed power lines, and active fire moving in stands of beetle killed trees.
A Type 2 Incident Management Team will take command of the fire Thursday morning. The team is working on planning a community informational meeting for Thursday evening. Details will be provided in the Thursday morning informational briefing.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.