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Touring Black Forest burn sites

The Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church Emergency Preparedness Group organized a tour of the burn and flood sites throughout Black Forest to further educate people on fire wise practices.ìThe point of the tour was lessons learned from the fire,î said Lisa Hatfield, co-founder and executive officer of the Tri-Lakes church group. People attending the caravan tour included about 50 residents, from Palmer Lake to Falcon. Hatfield said most attendees were not members of the church group.ìWhat’s under your control is to do mitigation,î Hatfield said. ìYou can’t control terrain or weather. If you’ve done your work (mitigation), talk to your neighbors and help them do their work.îThe tour started at the ignition point of the fire, then moved to the residence of Bill Mantia, vice president of the Black Forest Together board of directors. Both Mantia’s home and a rental home he owned burned in the 2013 fire. ìThe tour is an educational show-and-tell to get the word out for mitigation and preparedness,î Mantia said, adding that evacuation measures were included as well.In preparation for a fire, Mantia said people who lose their homes in a fire need to address the costs to rebuild. ìThere are a lot of expenses you really don’t anticipate,î he said. Mantia said expenses include fencing, bringing in new trees, resealing the driveway, removing debris, upgrading the septic system and leech fields and replacing every single thing that was in the home. He said his wife jokingly asks, ìIs that new?î ìEverything is new,î he said.Mantia had thoroughly mitigated his property prior to the fire. He said he asked a fire chief how the property had burned. ìEven though I mitigated, he said embers probably got into the eves, windows, or under the roof.îThe tour also included an area in Black Forest that is vulnerable to flooding as a result of the fire.ìTo actually experience it (flooding) is a whole different perspective,î said Rachel Terry, whose rebuild project was featured in the April issue of The New Falcon Herald. She said their street turns into a river when it rains. Mantia said that El Paso County provided about a half-million-dollars’ worth of work along Shoup Road to help with the flooding; however, he said the problem area is farther upstream. ìThere’s no vegetation on the hillside,î Mantia said.Through Black Forest Together, Mantia has organized several volunteer work days for those who still need help. ìIt’s neighbors helping neighbors. I tell you, this is what it’s all about,î he said. Mantia said youth groups help out during the summer, and between 10 and 40 cadets from the U.S. Air Force Academy help out one Saturday per month. ìWe had 40 to 45 projects last spring through the winter, and we have 80 to 90 more requests for help,î he said.Margo Humes, fire marshal for Falcon Fire Protection District and chief of the Palmer Lake Fire Department, said that residents have experienced depression, anxiety and distress because of the fire. ìIt’s PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and it’s real,î she said.ìYour whole life is gone,î Mantia said. He and his wife had made a list of items in case of an evacuation, but during the Black Forest fire there was no time. ìWe got to No. 1.î Mantia said he grabbed a laundry basket on his way out the door, and that is all they had left from the fire.

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