by Pam Zubeck
Disasters do draw the big shots to town. Today, it was Interior Secretary Ken Salazar taking center stage at Centennial Hall to talk about the Waldo Canyon Fire.
As rain poured outside, Salazar assured a small group of local officials and media that he and others in Washington, D.C., won't forget about El Paso County and Colorado Springs now that the fire is nearly put out. It was said to be 98 percent contained today.
"We recognize there's still a lot of work to be done here," Salazar said. "We are here. The president has said we are here fore the long term."
President Obama visited last week, as did Homeland Defense Secretary Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Salazar emphasized that the feds understand that restoration, rehabilitation and stabilization are the next orders of business on the burn scar that covers more than 18,000 acres west of the city. He noted that Fountain Creek Watershed, which covers more than 900 square miles in Teller and El Paso Counties, could fall victim to mudslides, and ultimately impact the Arkansas River at Pueblo.
But, ever hopeful, he said that good things can come from a tragedy such as this one, invoking the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, which led to restoration of the gulf area into an improved ecosystem for wildlife and fish.
Mike Byrne, federal coordination officer with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also was on hand. He said after the state asked for federal help, the turnaround time was 24 hours. "We're in a position now to support them (local agencies)," he said. He said FEMA officials were working with state and local governments to scour federal programs for new opportunities that could be applied to the fire losses.
Already, FEMA is offering disaster unemployment to those who lost their jobs because of the fire and crisis counseling. Byrne also urged homeowners in the burn area to get flood insurance.
Also today, the county issued a notice about additional services being offered at its Disaster Recovery Center, 105 N. Spruce St.
The El Paso County Disaster Center (DRC) will host the El Paso County Bar Association for a special edition of the Association’s free Ask A Lawyer program Wednesday, July 11 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. This special session is for individuals who were impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire. Residents impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire, who have not previously registered at the Disaster Recovery Center, are asked to call 444-8300 to let them know of your interest is speaking with a lawyer.
Lawyers from the El Paso County Bar Association (EPCBA) will be available to answer questions and assist victims with topics ranging from:
· Assistance with Insurance Claims
· Counseling on housing problems, including landlord-tenant issues
· Assistance with home repair contracts
· Assisting in consumer protection matters
· Counseling on mortgage foreclosure problems
· Replacement of important legal documents (including wills)
· Drafting of powers of attorney
· Estate administration and planning
· Guardianship and conservatorships
No appointment is necessary to attend this special session of Ask A Lawyer but impacted residents who have not previously visited the DRC are asked to call 444-8300 to register in advance. No other DRC services will be available at this time. The DRC is located at 105 N. Spruce in Colorado Springs.
The EPCBA will also being offering Ask a Lawyer services Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to Noon at the Citadel Mall and Call-A-Lawyer Thursday, July 19 from 5-7 on KKTV’s Call for Action.
The El Paso County Bar Association is the principal professional association for attorneys in the Pikes Peak Region for over 110 years. For more information email Claire Anderson: Claire@elpasocountybar.org