Black Forest Recovery After Action Report Released

Black Forest on June 18, 2013, two days before the fire was contained.

On a sunny summer afternoon one year ago, the Black Forest Fire sparked in the picturesque wooded community. The fire exploded in size and tore through the area, destroying more homes than any other fire in Colorado history.

A year later, residents of Black Forest are rebuilding and moving forward. The county is reflecting on the lessons learned during the recovery process, and presented its findings at a presentation Thursday night.

Over the last year, the Black Forest Fire Long Range Recovery Planning Committee met regularly to go over a variety of topics and addressing any concerns Black Forest residents might have moving forward from the "catastrophic fire." An after-action report has been put together highlighting the lessons learned throughout the recovery. That report was released at the presentation Thursday night. It is attached to the right of this article (or at the top of the article for people reading this article on a mobile device).

"When you're going through the fire where you may have lost everything. We want to be able to provide you with that basic level of assistance and those are some of the things we really tried to focus on in this report," El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn said.

The presentation started at 6 p.m. at the Commissioner's Auditorium at Centennial Hall on Cascade Avenue in Colorado Springs. There was a Q and A session after the report was presented.

One of the report's recommendations was to hire additional staff. It said the fire placed additional strain on the county staff and created a backlog of services. The county administrator suggested restoring some of the $45 million in administrative budge reductions from 2007 and 2009.

The report also found that releasing unofficial damage estimates did help during the fire. For example, they could estimate what percentage of homes in a certain area might be gone before seeing the damage first hand. That way, they could give homeowners at least some idea of how bad it was.

Also, during the Black Forest Fire, many people refused to leave their home because they had livestock or animals. The county determined that really endangered first responders. They will now work to spread more awareness on that issue.

The report also noted the importance of developing some formal support agreements. During the fire, staff became overwhelmed. They said creating formal documents would be helpful to get other agencies nearby to help right away.