News 5 Investigates

Jan 24, 2014 8:30 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: Reaction to Black Forest fire mitigation report

According to a 100-page audit released this week by the Pikes Peak Wildfire Prevention Partners organization, Black Forest residents did not do enough mitigation work prior to last year's deadly fire.

Despite the massive destruction we witnessed as a result of poor mitigation, there are still several Black Forest homeowners who are failing to mitigate their properties. Those who have already done so are now trying to encourage others to do the same.

"The fire came over the hill and stopped right in front of our house," Black Forest resident Chuck Lidderdale said. "We were lucky. I should have bought a lotto ticket."

His home didn't suffer any damage, despite flames and heavy smoke settling just feet away. He's mitigated his property for the past 15 years. Had his tree branches not been trimmed and winds blew the fire into his front yard, he says his house might not be standing today.

"If you've taken the fuel out by mitigation, then you've got a chance to stop the fire," he said.

Debris and low-lying tree branches helped fuel the Black Forest fire. Once the flames reach the canopies of trees, it's extremely difficult for firefighters to do their jobs.

Forestry experts recommend there be a 10-foot gap between the crowns of every tree. Despite that advice, many still refuse to mitigate.

"If you want to live in the forest and you want to live near the trees, the thought of cutting down those trees is not particularly attractive for residents," El Paso County public information officer Dave Rose said. "We've had some pushback with this."

With no rules or fines in place for homeowners who fail to mitigate, the county says it's been hard to gain compliance.

However, that's not stopping Lidderdale from pleading with others to take action to prevent another disaster.

Gov. Hickenlooper is backing a bill that would allow homeowners to receive a $2,500 mitigation tax credit.

We'll keep you updated as this bill moves through the legislature.

 

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