Digging out up to residents
Some Mountain Shadows residents want the government to remove debris from burned homes quickly because of health hazards. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency says that's the homeowner's responsibility. Residents have gotten similar responses from the city of Colorado Springs and El Paso County, says resident Kerri Olivier.
"That debris is continuing to blow on our homes and getting into the ground and water," says Olivier, whose home survived the blaze. "How do I get my house back to where it's liveable and someday be sellable?" Another resident says in an e-mail that leaving it to homeowners is "not a workable solution ... where public health and safety is directly threatened."
But FEMA says in a statement: "Debris removal on private property is the responsibility of the property owner working with their insurance company and local officials." Olivier says leaving destroyed homes for weeks or months could create new issues, such as air pollution or injury to people curiously wandering the area. "You'd think this was Disneyland," she says. "People are coming and taking pictures."
Olivier says she and her neighbors hope the city can require the sites be cleaned quickly, within a few weeks. If they're not, the city should clean them up and bill the property owner, she says. — PZ
Manitou Springs enjoyed a welcome influx of money Monday, as a "cash mob" of locals attempted to help the town recover from the Waldo Canyon Fire by spending money in local restaurants and stores.
The mob was the brainchild of Pueblo firefighter and Colorado Springs resident Bob Falcone (@bobfireman on Twitter). Planned earlier, the mob was delayed by the fire. Falcone says he didn't see many people at the official meet-up point at Soda Springs Park, but 1,000 posted on Facebook that they would shop the town, and many posted about it afterward.
"A mob by its very nature isn't an organized thing," Falcone says. "If nothing else, hopefully this gets the word out that, hey, you can go to Manitou Springs."
Falcone hopes others will take up the cause — not just for Manitou, but for other towns along U.S. Highway 24.
"It's one of those things that anyone can do," he says. "All it takes is a Facebook account or a Twitter account." — JAS
Long-term group forms
As the Waldo Canyon Fire raged, the Pikes Peak region came together with citizens and nonprofits going out of their way to help evacuees and those who lost their homes. Now, anticipating ongoing needs, more than 20 nonprofits have formed the Waldo Canyon Fire Long-Term Recovery Group.
"In the beginning there's all kinds of wonderful resources and help," says Michelle Swanson, organizer and associate with First Presbyterian Church. "But later on down the road, it's easy to forget that long-term recovery. ... We want to be there for the long haul, to help families get back to where they were before the disaster."
Swanson says it's an open group: "We just ask that it be people who are interested in long-term recovery and have some resources," says Swanson. "And by resources we mean people with experience with recovery or financial." Interested organizations can contact Swanson or Mark Rohlena, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado. — CH
St. John's appeal possible
More than 30 members of St. John's Baptist Church in central Colorado Springs filed suit last year against their pastor, Rev. Willie J. Sutton Jr. ("Damn shame," cover story, Jan. 19), calling it a last-ditch effort to oust Sutton, whom they say is no longer welcome.
Last month, a judge granted Sutton's attorney's motion for a summary judgment. Edward Hopkins, Denver-based attorney representing the congregants, explains that means "if we did nothing after that, the case would die."
Hopkins and his clients don't want to give up, he says. He has filed a request that the judge reconsider his ruling, and says if the judge doesn't reverse his decision, Hopkins will file an appeal this week. — CH
State fire ban lifted
Gov. John Hickenlooper lifted the statewide fire ban Sunday. While this won't impact local and county fire bans, it signals that risks seem to be abating. In a statement, Hickenlooper says, "Even though the 2012 wildfire season is far from over and still challenging, we believe conditions are such that local authorities and federal land managers ought to resume control over fire bans in their jurisdictions."
Burn restrictions continue in Colorado Springs, banning open fires, such as bonfires and campfires. El Paso County has banned open fires, such as campfires, charcoal grills and outdoor smoking. — CH
Fire inspires GOP bill
Will increasing state and local control of forests decrease the chances of large, destructive fires? U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn seems to think so, co-sponsoring a bill that gives states more control over national forests and lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.
Colorado's House Republican delegation is sponsoring the Healthy Forest Management Act of 2012, pointing to the Waldo Canyon Fire as an impetus. — CH
Preparing for disaster ... again
If ever there were a license for a city to pity itself, Colorado Springs has earned it in the summer of 2012. First a massive hailstorm battered roofs, tore at trees and pounded cars. Then a fire blackened our hills, destroyed nearly 350 homes and claimed two lives. Now, heavy-duty rains are rushing down our charred hillsides and causing flooding.
Locusts, anyone? The Waldo Canyon Fire scar means more problems with stormwater and erosion. Manitou Springs is handing out sandbags to residents in low-lying areas who want to secure their property.
Colorado Springs and Manitou, as well as El Paso County, are offering advice on preparing for floods, such as: don't attempt to walk through flooded streams, roads or drainage ways; if flooding prevents you from leaving your home, go to the top floor, attic or roof; if you touch flood waters, disinfect your hands; reserve 911 for life-threatening emergencies.
Even when it's not raining, if you see clogged drainage, report it immediately to the City Streets Division, 385-5934; the County Public Services Department, 520-6891; or Manitou Springs, 685-5481. Assess your property for flood risk, learn whether you're in a flood plain, and consider purchasing flood insurance if needed. Create a flood plan with your family and keep a 72-hour kit for evacuation. Register your phone with elpasoteller911.org to receive emergency notifications. Take photos of belongings if needed to file an insurance claim.
Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.
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