USFS rules 10 Camp Creek cabins can be rebuilt

By Curtis Riggs | July 29, 2009

Burned in '05 Cave Creek Complex Fire
CAMP CREEK – After four years of frustration and battling red tape, the owners of 10 cabins, which were burned in the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, received permits to rebuild last week.

The U.S. Forest Service ruling, which was released on Friday, July 24, also renews the permits for 41 other cabins for the next 20 years.

Camp Creek"They all can rebuild if they want to," Cave Creek District Ranger Colleen Madrid said about property owners who are now in compliance with Forest Service rules.

Two property owners will not receive permits, however. One cabin was ruled uninhabitable by the Forest Service and property owner Larry Wade is losing his permit because he was unable to come into compliance on a retaining wall. He would have needed to spend $50,000 to bring it into compliance.

Wade has until Aug. 4 to remove the cabin he spent $70,000 on in 1995.

Tension between the cabin owners, many whose lives were uprooted by the monster fire, and the Forest Service, particularly Madrid, has developed since the June 2005 blaze, which burned nearly 244,000 acres. Hard feelings developed because Forest Service officials initially told the permit holders they could rebuild within six months.

Carefree architect Shelby Wilson owns two Camp Creek cabins. Per a 2006 agreement, he had until the end of the year to sell one of them.

"Now I have 90 days to sell my cabin," Wilson said. The previous ruling required him to be out of it by the end of 2009.

He compares the four years in dealing with the Forest Service to a lengthy court battle.

Camp Creek"I can't believe its over. We have waited all this time," he said. He admits he still has "guarded" feelings about the recent ruling, "Even if this is good news it will take awhile to digest."

People have 45 days, until Sept. 8, to appeal the July 24 decision.

According to Madrid, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to create a new Environment Assessment (EA) for the Camp Creek area began in 2006, just a year after the fire.

"NEPA sets no timelines or time tables," she said. She and her staff worked with the cabin owners throughout the process. "I understand it was time consuming, but it's the process we have."

The emotional roller coaster cabin owners have been on for the past four years due to the hassles with the Forest Service ruined life at Camp Creek nearly as much as the fire the way Wilson sees it.

"They took heaven and made hell out of it," he said.

Photos: The owners of 10 cabins at Camp Creek, which were burned in the 2005 Cave Creek Complex Fire, received permits to rebuild from the U.S. Forest Service last week. Grass and other vegetation in the burned area has been growing for the last couple of years.
Photos by Curtis Riggs