DENVER (KDVR) — It has been nearly a month since the Marshall Fire in Boulder County spread to about 6,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.
One community in the fire area is taking a look back at previous Colorado fire recovery efforts.
The Waldo Canyon Fire sparked in June 2012, and it was the most destructive fire in Colorado history at the time. Now, the Marshall Fire has exponentially surpassed the amount of destruction and holds that title.
Some community leaders are frustrated about the slow response to clean up debris. The lag is halting rebuilding efforts.
“The road to recovery. I’ve seen many references it is somewhat a marathon [and] obviously going to be a little more challenging given the current economic conditions,” said Bob Cutter, the team lead of Colorado Springs Together. “Although there are many similarities between Waldo Canyon and Marshall Fire, there are also many differences.”
Let’s compare the numbers side by side:
|Waldo Canyon Fire||Marshall Fire|
|Location||Colorado Springs||Superior, Lousiville, Unincorporated Boulder County|
|Date started||June 23, 2012, *tore through neighborhood June 26, 2012||Dec. 30, 2021|
|Date contained||July 10, 2012||Jan. 4, 2022|
|Homes lost completely||347 homes||1,084 homes|
|Other damages||n/a||149 homes damaged + 7 commercial structures destroyed + 30 damaged|
|Acres burned||~ 18,247 acres||~ 6,000 acres|
|Cause||Human-caused, specifics unknown||Still under investigation|
Additionally, just about two weeks after the Waldo Canyon Fire was contained, the first rebuilding permit was issued in El Paso County, and in about seven months after the fire, 100 building permits were issued in the fire area.
So far, Boulder County has not issued any rebuilding permits for homes damaged or destroyed just yet.
In Colorado Springs before the fire was even contained, a group of about 30 leaders leveraged their experience in the public and private sectors and formed a group called Colorado Springs Together to aid in the rebuilding process.
“Really what we wanted to do is make sure there are no obstacles in the end through this process,” Cutter said.
Now Superior is looking to their neighbors to the south for advice.
“What’s become really apparent recently with Colorado Springs, they set aggressive targets, they were able to start removing debris within 15 days. We’re on day 30 and we [Superior] haven’t removed a single piece of debris from private property,” said Neal Shah, a Superior town trustee.
Shah shared an example of how homeowners are anxious to get started.
“Quite honestly, they’re really frustrated,” said Shah. “One of my residents had [received] a notice to stop work put on his property yesterday, so he could not touch or do any debris removal. The earliest you can get an appointment with our town staff is Tuesday. So he’s lost.”
The group Shah is working to form called “Superior Rising” may have to overcome many hurdles that didn’t exist a decade ago, such as a pandemic and rising housing costs coupled with low inventory.
“The economy wasn’t as red hot as it is, rental properties were available,” said Cutter. “The tight labor market, construction, the availability of building materials.”
Cutter acknowledges the Mountain Shadows community got things together quickly and predicts the process will be slower for Boulder County.
“I’m sorry to say it. I think it’s very possible it might take maybe 12 months longer to achieve those metrics under current economic circumstances,” said Cutter. “If the community comes together, it’s amazing what can be achieved.”
Togetherness is the lesson Superior town leaders have already mastered.
“The key thing is in order to heal, we have to be together,” said Shah.
This is why they are meeting in person despite the pandemic.
The core group of Superior Rising met Saturday and they plan to invite members of the community Sunday, at the Superior Community Center, 1500 Coalton Drive from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.