Black Forest Residents Want to Prevent Repeat

May 22--As the one year anniversary of the Black Forest fire approaches, residents of the heavily wooded area north of Colorado Springs attended Wednesday night's Black Forest Fire/Rescue District Board meeting to discuss their concerns and ask newly seated board members and Fire Chief Bob Harvey what would be done differently this year to prevent another destructive fire.

First on their list of concerns was whether the fire department could ban controlled burns being done by contractors to remove limbs and trees from properties.

"What's the plan if the burns get out of control?" said one resident who lost her house in the fire and is eight weeks away from moving into her new home.

But fire district officials said their hands are tied.

"The issue, of course, is that everybody in Black Forest is much more sensitive and aware of the environment. And now we have these contractors that are coming in, and we don't really have an avenue to stop them from burning," Harvey said .

That didn't sit well with some residents, but Harvey directed them to El Paso County Board of Commissioners.

"We don't have an adopted set of safety standards for the district that would apply to residential actions, and this was stoutly enforced by the Board of County Commissioners last December," he said.

While residents at the board meeting criticized Harvey, a few thanked him for his service during last year's destructive fire, and some asked the new board what it would do differently

New chairman Rick McMorran said the board would bring transparency back to the district.

"At this point the new board wants to eventually meet with the chief, get a good overview of the operations, and see what changes can be made to improve service and basically restore the trust that the public has in the fire department," he said.

Other residents encouraged their neighbors to make evacuation plans and mitigate.

"Pointing fingers is not going to do anything," said one resident.

Copyright 2014 - The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)