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Rebuilding the Black Forest

Home and business owners who lost everything in the Black Forest fire are slowly starting to rebuild. Darryl Glenn, county commissioner for District 1 in El Paso County, said so far 99 permits have been pulled.ìThere have been a lot of tensions on the new fire codes,î Glenn said. ìThat has had an impact on rebuilding.î Glenn credited the mentoring program between the Waldo Canyon fire victims and Black Forest fire victims as a huge resource. Also, Black Forest residents under United Insurance have benefited because of the companyís program to pair policy holders with others who have been through similar situations.Glenn is planning a January meeting to assess residentsí progress and address issues. He would like to garner feedback from as many people as possible.One ongoing issue involves the trees. ìSome folks want the trees there, to see if anything will re-grow; others want any reminder gone,î Glenn said. ìThen, there is the issue of who is responsible to pay for the tree removal, which can get tricky.î Glenn said some residents are concerned that too much tree removal will encourage large subdivisions to be built there, losing that ìforestî feel they enjoy. Glenn said they are working to extend the Federal Emergency Management Agencyís deadline for tree removal to this summer. Many companies are not familiar with FEMAís guidelines nor are they qualified for the job, he said.Lore Buswell, an employee at Black Forest Veterinary Clinic, said while they are enjoying their new location, it is still hard to think about their old office that burned down. ìIt has been emotionally hard for all of us,î Buswell said. ìWe do miss the old building; and, at times when I think about it or drive by the old location, it still brings on the tears. It was home-away-from-home to all of the staff as well as our clients. Lots of memories were made there. But we are very happy to be up and running for our patients again.î Some rescue efforts failed to save pets and livestock in Black Forest, something that will stick with her forever, Buswell said.Buswell said the need for supplies for the animals still recovering from fire-related injuries or displaced animals is ongoing. ìBlack Forest animal sanctuary and Wild Blue animal sanctuary might still have displaced animals that they are still caring for and are in great need of senior horse feed and hay to get through the winter,î she said. ìMany have pets and livestock that are still at boarding facilities because they don’t have their own home to keep them. There is one horse that was so severely burned that the medical expenses were over $5,000 last time I had heard.îAmanda Davis at Black Forest nonprofit Crosses for Losses expressed concern for the residents that still have no permanent home. For financial reasons, some are currently living in tents in the Black Forest, Davis said. They have nowhere to go. ìWinter weather is the hardest thing for our neighbors right now.î

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