- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - Crews are still working to clean up damage done by the Black Forest fire three years ago and to stop a similar blaze from occurring again.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reports (https://bit.ly/2hl7Tju ) that burned, blackened skeletons of trees threaten to break off and injure volunteers working to prevent future wildfires.

Black Forest Together Volunteer Coordinator Katherine Richards says the burn zone from the 2013 blaze that consumed more than 22 square miles and destroyed more than 500 homes still looks close to the same as it did after the fire was contained. Charred trees litter the burn area and have since become fragile and prone to breaking.

“(The burn zone) still looks very much the same - a lot of burned, blackened trees still standing,” Richards said. “Many of them are starting to break off at the top if there’s a lot of wind … they’re fracturing easily, which makes it dangerous for anybody who goes up and tries to cut a tree. You put a saw on the tree, and the vibrations may cause parts of the tree to come hurtling down on you.”

This year, more than 1,000 Black Forest Together volunteers have worked on more than 70 projects, including clearing more than 170 acres of land. Since the organization’s inception, volunteers have put in more than 40,000 hours cutting down trees or sawing off limbs, chipping the wood and hauling it away.

Volunteers also work on erosion problems that come with clearing trees and shrubbery, and plant seedlings to help revitalize the forest.

“Even three years after the fire, there’s still a lot of work that is being done here in the community,” said Lori Trechter, a grant writer for Black Forest Together.

Richards said volunteer interest is dwindling as memories of the blaze fade. She said the greatest impact comes when large groups, like Air Force Academy cadets, come for volunteer opportunities.

“A lot of the volunteers are not that interested anymore, or they’ve got other things to do,” she said. “It’s kind of slowed down the progress.”

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Information from: The Gazette, https://www.gazette.com

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