Reserve water supply not used in Black Forest fire

Reserve water supply not used in Black Forest fire

04 December 2013

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USA — Many people are wondering why water specifically set aside for firefighting was not used during the Black Forest wildfire in June that destroyed nearly 500 homes.

The water was stored in three cisterns, or underground reservoirs, in Cathedral Pines — a subdivision on the northwest side of Black Forest that escaped heavy damage from the fire.

Dan Potter, the developer of Cathedral Pines, said he paid $500,000 to install the cisterns. Potter said he was required to do so by the Black Forest Fire Department to protect the subdivision’s 100 homes during a fire.

“I don’t know why (Harvey) didn’t use (the cisterns),” said Potter. “Or pass the information on to other agencies. A couple of days after the fire I met a fire section commander out here. I asked how the cisterns worked; he didn’t even know the cisterns were here.”

Each cistern holds 30,000 gallons and Potter said they were available for use during the fire. Potter said three ponds in Cathedral Pines also were not used by fire trucks, though they were used for helicopter basket drops.

“Just a few hundred feet from (the cisterns) is where the fire really swept through,” he said. “So if they’d known they could have filled their tanks two minutes away instead of 25 minutes away, we’d have had a lot better result.”

KRDO NewsChanel 13 tried to contact Harvey and the Fire Department’s Board of Directors Tuesday but didn’t receive a response.

Potter said using the cisterns would have lessened the damage in heavily burned areas around Cathedral Pines.

Darryl Glenn, the El Paso County comissioner representing Black Forest, said he’d like to know more about why the cisterns were ignored.

“I think it’s important for us to take a step back and look at what’s the best way to provide adequate fire protection in the area,” he said.

Bill Batson lives near Cathedral Pines and lost his home in the fire. He said the fire moved so quickly that he doubts the cisterns would have made a difference.

“(Firefighters) were slow to respond,” Batson said. “But I guess I’m not real upset with them. There was nothing they could have done for our area.”

Potter said what actually protected Cathedral Pines was the $2 million he spent on mitigation, which included removing trees and branches, when the subdivision opened. Only one of the subdivision’s 100 homes was destroyed in the fire.

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