Rising from the ashes: Mountain View consumers rebuilding after deadly fire

It has been a little more than six months since the most destructive fire in Colorado history killed two people and destroyed 488 homes in the Black Forest area served by Tri-State member Mountain View Electric Association (Limon, Colo.).

At least a dozen new homes are now under construction in the area stricken by the Black Forest fire last June.

At least a dozen new homes are now under construction in the area stricken by the Black Forest fire last June.

Today, at least a dozen new homes are rising from the charred ruins and the co-op’s line crews are closing in on repairing service infrastructure destroyed in the blaze, according to Darryl Edwards, Mountain View Electric’s member services manager.

Edwards estimates that approximately 80 percent of the lines, poles, meters and other power supply equipment have been repaired or replaced in the impacted areas and according to El Paso County officials, approximately 90 construction permits had been issued in the Black Forest area by early December.

“We are now starting to shift our restoration efforts to lining up our contractors to begin clearing ‘hazard trees’ that pose a threat to our lines,” Edwards explained. “This is a major undertaking that could involve the cutting and removal of up to 20,000 trees — some of which are on private property and require landowner approval before we can cut them down,” he said.

The Black Forest fire destroyed 488 homes that were served by Tri-State member Mountain View Electric Association.

The Black Forest fire destroyed 488 homes that were served by Tri-State member Mountain View Electric Association.

Edwards pointed out that the co-op has received an extension from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through June of 2014 to complete this task. FEMA is shouldering 75 percent of the $5 million to $6 million cost of removing the hazard trees, as well as providing similar funding to assist El Paso County in removing dead or dying trees near roadways.

“We have seen a lot of tenacity among the Black Forest residents in their efforts to restore services and rebuild their homes,” said Edwards. “Of course, a lot of our consumers who built here in the first place were attracted to the beauty of the forest and 14,000 acres of that is gone, so we probably have some consumers who will choose not to rebuild,” he noted.

Mountain View Electric line crews have completed about 80 percent of necessary repairs on portions of their system damaged by the Black Forest fire.

Mountain View Electric line crews have completed about 80 percent of necessary repairs on portions of their system damaged by the Black Forest fire.

The Black Forest fire started on June 11, 2013 and raged for nine days before it was declared contained on June 20. Two of Tri-State’s transmission lines serving the area sustained some damage from the fire, but were quickly repaired and restored to service by the association’s east-side transmission maintenance crews.

The Waldo Canyon and the Black Forest fires are among the most costly disasters in the Rocky Mountain Region. According to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the Waldo Canyon fire is the third costliest with more than $453 million of insured loss. The Black Forest fire ranks sixth with just under $293 million in loss.

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