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Western wildfire recovery likely to take years

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By Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — A once-thriving Colorado neighborhood of homes and healthy trees has been reduced to a barren expanse of ash and debris. Across the state, a river prized for its trout, rapids and pristine water instead flows as an oily, black brew every time rain falls on nearby slopes charred by wildfire.
In New Mexico, the Santa Clara Pueblo is seeking volunteers to fill sandbags for fear the American Indian village of 3,100 will be washed away by runoff from mountainsides left denuded by a blaze last year.
Wildfires across the West are burning homes, businesses, bridges and other infrastructure necessary for everyday life — and the disaster isn’t over when the wildfire is snuffed out and the firefighters go home.
Erosion from seared hillsides buries roads in mud and pollutes rivers that supply tap water. The point was driven home earlier this week when a mudslide following heavy rain in Colorado’s Waldo Canyon burn area temporarily closed U.S. 24 near Manitou Springs.
Electricity, water and gas lines have to be repaired and recharged. Debris from burned-out homes has to be hauled away and new houses must be built. Even if the work starts while the fire is still burning, experts say recovery can take years and untold millions of dollars simply to make conditions livable again.


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