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July 12, 2012

Team assessing Colo. wildfire damage

CASCADE, Colo. (UPI) -- With the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado contained, experts say they're assessing the environmental damage it caused.

Officials announced Tuesday night the wildfire, which burned more than 18,000 acres, was under control.

Now a 25-member Burned Area Emergency Response team of biologists, engineers and archaeologists from across the country is in the midst of a week-long assessment of the environmental damage, The Denver Post reported.

"We're looking at the fire's effects on our recreation, our trails, our roads, our water and, of course, animals and their habitats," team leader Dana Butler said.

Butler said the team will provide a report to officials at Pike National Forest and San Isabel National Forest and if the report is approved, the team would get federal money for projects designed to help the terrain and to protect thousands of people living in the burn area.

The money could go toward such things as road improvements, clearing areas, closing areas to the public and mulching.

Brad Rust, a soil scientist, said as trees and scrub oak burn, they release a waxy substance that covers soil, reducing the soil's ability to retain water. He said the substance can remain two to three years in severely burned areas.

Butler said there are also worries about contamination of the Rampart Reservoir, a major source of water near the burn area.

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