COSTILLA COUNTY — More than 100 homes have been listed as destroyed in the Spring Fire, which has been burning since Wednesday and had grown to 60,710 acres by Monday night, with perimeter containment only 5 percent.
This is just a partial assessment of the burned area, as some portions are still inaccessible.
Accompanied by mental health counselors, county and emergency staff met with groups of Forbes Park landowners Monday night at the Centennial School in San Luis to begin the notification process of whether their homes had survived or been destroyed in the fire.
Of the assessments conducted so far in the burned area, 104 homes were listed as destroyed and 61 intact. In some cases, garages survived while houses did not, or houses were intact while the garages were destroyed.
Many areas are still inaccessible.
Chris Rodriguez, emergency management coordinator for Costilla County, explained during Sunday’s briefing on the Spring Fire that a team from the Costilla County Assessor’s Office had gone out into the burn area on Saturday to begin assessments. He said they conducted “windshield assessments” because it was not safe for them to get down, and because fire conditions worsened in the area they were assessing, they were only able to conduct structural assessments in a portion of the burned area. Because of fire conditions on Sunday, the assessor’s team was unable to go back to continue structural assessments.
The team collected data and subsequently verified it. Then on Monday night in a meeting only open to evacuees in the areas where assessments had been completed, landowners were informed of the results.
Notifications on Monday, July 2 were shared for Forbes Park landowners in units A1, A2, B1. B2, C1, C2, D1, D2, E1, E2, F1, F2, G1 and part of H1.
Rodriguez encouraged homeowners to be patient as the assessment team completes its work, because the team wants to make sure its information is accurate before telling homeowners whether or not their houses are still standing.
Also to protect homeowners’ privacy, only unit numbers will be listed on web sites. Property owners may go to the assessor’s web site to determine their unit numbers if they do not have them with them. Unit numbers are listed on their tax notices. Also, property owners from out of state may monitor the web sites for information on their individual properties.
Incident Commander Shane Greer said the work of the assessors in determining which structures have been lost is “not an easy task,” and when they are looking on the ground, there may be multiple foundations, which can all look the same once the structures they contained are burned down. That is why they have to go back and take the time to review their records regarding the structures, such as garages, houses and other buildings, that might have been located on a specific property.
“It is hard, hard work to figure what is what in a fire area,” Greer said.
Greer added that everyone from the governor’s office on down wants to know how many structures have been lost, and at this time he cannot give a number because structural assessments have not been completed. “We just can’t say because we don’t know. We’re still working on assessments … When we have assessments done we will have a number.” He added that until the property owners themselves know, everyone else could wait.
Property owners in the portion of Forbes Park that was designated for Monday’s notification meeting but were not able to be present may see the assessment report at www.slvemergency.org
Costilla County officials have expressed every intention of working with property owners on permitting processes during rebuilding. Tax assessments will be adjusted and prorated for properties that are listed as destroyed. The county recognizes that this is an extremely stressful many. Behavioral Health and Victims Advocate resources can be accessed at the DAC on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Disaster Assistance Center (DAC) located at Centennial School in San Luis will be open Tuesday and Wednesday, July 3-4, from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. with resources available for those affected by the fire. Resources will include public health, housing resources, property cleanup, and behavioral health.
Doctors will be available at the evacuation center at Blanca/Fort Garland on Tuesday from 12-4 p.m.; bulk distribution from Red Cross will also occur at the evacuation center and will include necessities homeowners will need once they are able to go back into their properties, such as trash bags, shovels, rakes, gloves and coolers.
Caption: The Spring Fire continues to rage above developments firefighters are working diligently to save. Many landowners in the Forbes Park area, where the fire ignited last week, found out Monday night they had lost their homes./Courtesy photo