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Jul 4, 2013 2:16 PM by Maddie Garrett

Black Forest fire victims deal with rebuilding challenges

There's no time off this holiday for victims of the Black Forest fire who are trying to get back on their feet and navigate the long and often difficult rebuilding process. As clean up continues, many people are left with the question, what to do next.

"As you can see the cinder blocks exploded in the heat, so it's getting pretty well scraped clean," said Kent Osborne as he walks around what used to be his dream home in Black Forest.

Osborne is working around the clock to get his property cleaned up so he can start from scratch on rebuilding his home.

"We have to scrape it down to bare dirt and start over, whole new foundation, all new walls, everything," he said.

Rebuilding on a charred piece of land littered with debris is complicated. For homeowners like Osborne, there's a lot to get done and a lot of unanswered questions.

"Depends how soon we can get all of the debris removed, and then what is going to be the best access to electricity, the water, the septic system, if I can even get hooked into the septic system, we don't know that yet," said Osborne about when he can move back onto his property.

Osborne said this is a new experience for him, building a home from the ground up. The disaster clean up is just one more element he's unfamiliar with.

"We don't even know what questions to ask yet, because we don't even know what to do," he said.

That's why Osborne and several other fire victims are going to the long-range fire recovery meetings, spear-headed by El Paso County leaders. Residents are hoping to find out what steps to take in order to rebuild.

"Every little area has to have a separate permit," said Osborne at the meeting Wednesday. "A lot of the information they provided today is really going to be beneficial."

The county is trying to stream line the process by combining some of the required permits. They're also temporarily suspending some rules for a year to allow people to live in RV's or mobile homes on their land while they rebuild.

Members on the Black Forest Recovery Committee said as rebuilding moves forward, they'll be looking at homes on a case by case basis, especially because so many homes lost in the fire were older and new building codes might have to be followed.

"Am I going to have an inspector come out and say you're going to have to do this and this and this, which are all added expenses," asked Osborne at the meeting.

Ultimately, El Paso County Commissioners will end up voting on a number of issues as they arise.

Despite the challenges, Osborne is optimistic he'll be living in his new dream home by this time next year.

El Paso County has put together a website to help Black Forest fire victims in the recovery process. It includes links to the permits required and phone numbers of agencies to call for cleanup and inspection: http://www.elpasoco.com/pages/SafetyandAssistance.aspx

 

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