Count of homes lost to Black Forest Fire reduced by El Paso County Assessor

BLACK FOREST, Colo. - The Black Forest Fire destroyed fewer homes than originally feared, but remains the most destructive fire in state history by a wide margin.

El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman said on Tuesday that his office counted 486 homes destroyed by the fire during June.

"The original count of 511 was a product of our sheriff's department when they were out attending to the fire, so the conditions were adverse at best," Lowderman said.

"Given the conditions, I was surprised their numbers got so close," he added a few moments later.

In addition to the homes, Lowderman said his staff counted 37 damaged homes and 30 lost or damaged detached garages. He knew of only one commercial building that was lost and said the count of outbuildings is still ongoing.

The total value of taxable property lost to the fire, Lowderman said, is currently calculated at $85,442,052.

The number is very likely to change as the outbuildings and the loss of trees are added to the calculation, the assessor said.

"Trees add about 30 percent to the value of a lot," he said, explaining that the taxable value of properties that lost trees will be adjusted downward by that amount.

Lowderman says his office will not be calculating the value of personal property lost in the fire.

It also won't consider the cost of fighting the fire, which Incident Commander Rich Harvey said grew to more than $8.5 million.

The fire, which began on June 11 around 1 p.m., burned 14,280 acres in Black Forest, north of Colorado Springs. Two people were killed while apparently trying to evacuate.