Black Forest Together Announces The Phoenix Program, a Disaster Recovery Consulting Program, As Wildfires Devastate Colorado
The Phoenix Program focuses on creating a disaster recovery plan for communities to implement as
Annually, urban wildland wildfires in the western United States consume hundreds of thousands of acres of forest and thousands of homes. These wildfires increase in frequency, intensity and devastation every year. Black Forest Together was forged in the crucible of the 2013 Black Forest Fire, the costliest fire in Colorado history, which consumed nearly 15,000 acres and destroyed approximately 500 homes. Formed by residents intent on providing community leadership and organization for disaster recovery due to this fire, Black Forest Together developed a sustainable plan to disaster recovery, and with the strength of the community, helped Black Forest recover, rebuild, and restore.
Black Forest Together is experienced in planning and executing sustainable, long-term recovery operations for a community which is either planning for or has experienced a natural disaster. It has the practical experience of 7 years of lessons learned which has allowed it to assist other communities in preparedness, recovery and reforestation.
It is with that experience, the Black Forest community is starting to thrive once more.
Now, our field of expertise encompasses disaster recovery, mitigation, wildlife and watershed preservation, forest restoration, disaster preparedness, and educational fire prevention and recovery programs.
The Phoenix Program is is a “turn key” consultative and funding model that provides recovery plans, organizational structure; recovery, reforestation and black tree demolition programs; and a myriad of policies, procedures and job descriptions that can be exported to, and implemented by, any community in a natural disaster recovery mode. It is intended to assist the private sector of communities affected by, or preparing for, disaster in the planning and implementation of sustainable recovery activities. This Program is a plug-and-play application, intended to accelerate sustainable recovery activities and assist transition into self-sustaining long-term operations. With our experience and proven model, we provide this concept, training, and service across the country.
With the Phoenix Program, our goal is to help communities affected by catastrophic fire to recover, rebuild and restore their lives, protect wildlife habitat, water quality and ecological health with an emphasis placed on community values, economic stability and the richness of the natural environment today and in the future.
Communities are generally ill-prepared and inexperienced to initiate recovery activities. They will struggle to:
Black Forest Together has developed a “turn key,” plug-and-play consultative model that provides:
The purpose of this model is to give community leaders the tools to minimize the time for the implementation of recovery operations. It mitigates the “what the heck are we to do” anxiety allowing leadership to act with a sense of purpose and confidence in communicating with and serving their community. The seminal lesson learned is that recovering communities will have to fend for themselves once the responder organizations move on to the next catastrophe and the media consider your circumstance “old news”. Recovery operations, particularly from fire in a forested or wilderness area, may take twenty years or more. The Phoenix Program provides a means of planning for extended recovery operations.
BFT initially coordinated with numerous civic and faith-based organizations in establishing a process to assist those low-and moderate-income families with immediate financial needs. This assistance was available for nearly 3 years. During the period 2013-2015, Black Forest Together collaborated with numerous community agencies to distribute nearly $250,000 to help families with unmet needs to recover from the fire. It also solicited support from local businesses to distribute discount cards, food gift certificates ($10,000) and gift cards ($7,500) to recovering families.
It next established an organizational structure to identify, evaluate, prioritize, resource and manage recovery projects for homeowners. To date, nearly 500 projects have been conducted, primarily with volunteers from within the locale, region and nation. At the conclusion of the 2020 project calendar, approximately 55,000 hours of volunteer service has been dedicated to the Black Forest recovery. During the recovery process, BFT has transitioned to mitigation and reforestation endeavors. In its mitigation efforts, it has disbursed nearly half a million dollars ($500,000) in State grant funds for forest mitigation of private property. In collaboration with the Colorado State Forest Service and the regional fire districts, BFT has hosted presentations on home and community fire prevention to include the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Program. With regards to reforestation, under the auspices of BFT’s Trees 4 Tomorrow Program, approximately 3,500 five to twenty-foot Ponderosa Pine trees, indigenous to the Black Forest, have been transplanted to private properties in the burn scar.
BFT was one of three projects selected from El Paso County to be submitted in Colorado’s National Disaster Resilience Competition application in 2015 due to its innovative approach and model that could be easily replicated elsewhere in both fire prevention and post-wildfire recovery.
In summation, the residents of the Black Forest created a regional public/private model that is a reputable and financially sustainable organization to assist the community in its recovery, rebuilding, restoration and reforestation efforts. It also focuses on forest health through its partnerships and alliances with key national, state and regional organizations, i.e. Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado State Department of Natural Resources, Colorado State Department of Local Affairs, regional Fire/Rescue Protection Districts, El Paso County (Commissioners, Office of Emergency Management, Community Services, Park Services), as well as many other non-profits, such as community foundations, national corporations and local businesses.