WALDO CANYON FIRE: 200-300 homes lost, says source

Staff reports Updated: June 27, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: June 27, 2012

4:11 a.m.

Pueblo's Bill Fortune, a volunteer at the Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter for evacuees, was also a volunteer at the High Park fire near Fort Collins.

Of the displaced citizens from the two fires, Fortune said, "It's pretty much the same attitude: they're patient, understanding and grateful. They don't like that they're out, but they have a place to go."

Fortune said volunteering during the Waldo Canyon fire is different than it was for High Park because the Colorado Springs area has a much larger population and more people are coming to the shelter.

3:25 a.m.

Scanner reports of small spot fires and embers all over the northwest part of town the last few hours.

3:15 a.m.

Tweet from Christopher E. Otwell: "@DaveRamsey Instead of C-Note that I budgeted to spend on Oct. Denver event (2-peeps), I've decided to spend it on #WaldoCanyonFire donation"

2:55 a.m.

A structure fire reported at Flying W Ranch Road and Tyrone Drive.

2:33 a.m.

"On fire again" and "close to a hill of timber" was heard on the scanner, pertaining to the northwest part of town.

2:13 a.m.

Scanner conversation notes hot spots in Wolf Ranch Valley.

2:00 a.m.

Worth reading, about a feeling many will never forget, including Gazette columnist Bill Vogrin ... http://www.gazette.com/articles/house-140917-family-outside.html

1:50 a.m.

Saw this tweet from Lauren Hendrix: "My godfathers grave is engulfed in flames right now. Words cannot express how I feel."

1:42 a.m.

About 704 homes without electricity east of I-25, near Nevada and Austin Bluffs, says Colorado Springs Utilities. Here's a link to the map:

http://www.csu.org/residential/energy/Pages/outagemap.aspx

1:28 a.m.

Colorado Springs fire visible from space #waldocanyonfire  http://fb.me/21dtgDM5h

1:23 a.m.

Police scanner conversation at 1:18 a.m. indicated "a couple of other hot spots are kicking up" around Blodgett Peak.

"Just give us the exact location and we'll send resources your way."

Been a quieter night for Waldo Canyon Fire, at least with the view from afar and listening to scanners.

1:14 a.m.

‎Springs city council member Lisa Czelatdko posted this on her Facebook page: "Due to the Waldo Canyon Fire emergency, Mountain Metropolitan Transit bus routes 3, 14, and 16 will not operate on Thursday. Metro Mobility will not operate in the area west of Interstate 25 and North of US 24. FREX will not operate until further notice. All other fixed-routes and associated Metro Mobility services will operate on Thursday.
For more information, please contact Vicki McCann at vmccann@springsgov.com."

12:45 a.m.

Check out the Waldo Canyon fire photos from Gazette photographers and readers at http://www.gazette.com/sections/slideshow/?id=14935049

12:30 a.m.

In response to a request from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Fort Carson is providing engineer support to the academy's firebreak efforts. 

Fort Carson engineer units committed resources to El Paso County firebreaks along Highway 24 earlier today and have now shifted their focus to building firebreaks around areas of the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Army engineer units are providing personnel and equipment, to include 121 Soldiers operating 10 heavy bulldozers, four excavators, two wreckers for maintenance operations, two flatbed trucks, two fuel trucks, 13 military transportation and support vehicles, and one commercial road grader. 

The Soldiers will operate in cooperation with U.S. Air Force Academy efforts to fight the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Fort Carson remains prepared to assist firefighting efforts and provide support to the Colorado Springs community to the fullest extent possible.

12:15 a.m.

Colorado Springs Police confirmed there is no fire near the Will Rogers Shrine.

12:05 a.m.

Peterson Air Force Base emergency responders continue to support wildfire efforts in Colorado Springs and at the United States Air Force Academy.

Peterson AFB and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station are contributing 11 firefighters, three fire trucks and one bulldozer to USAFA and the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

Base officials have assembled more than 130 families who have volunteered to accept approximately 750 military evacuees.

"The 21st Space Wing is stepping up to help all agencies in the herculean effort of combating the Waldo Canyon wildfire," said 21st SW commander, Col. Chris Crawford. "We have exhaustive plans in place to support local, state and national organizations where necessary and when needed."

The base fitness center remains closed and is prepared to expeditiously respond to displaced military members. Service members can call 719-556-4462 for information on how to link up with a volunteer family. Families wishing to volunteer to host evacuees can call 719-556-4462 or email peterson.evac.aid@us.af.mil.

Information will be updated via the Peterson AFB website, www.peterson.af.mil, the base Facebook page at "Peterson AFB: 21st Space Wing".

11:51 p.m.

A pair of 16-year-olds brought smiles to evacuated children at the Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter.

Alexa Batzel, a junior at Air Academy High, and Conni Gilstrap, a Sand Creek High junior, arrived Wednesday evening with armloads of stuffed animals after seeing pictures of the fire and displaced children on television.

"It makes you sad when you see that," Batzel said.

The two teens aren't done helping others in their community.

"We're buying $100 of food for Care & Share tomorrow," Batzel said.

Batzel has classmates who've been evacuated and another family is staying at her family's house after being forced to leave their own home. Of a good friend of her father, she said, "I'd never seen him cry."

11:42 p.m.

Scanner traffic reports a spreading grassfire near the Will Rogers Shrine. Earlier tweets about a suspected fire there eventually indicated that it was just the lights of the shrine.

11:23 p.m.

Evacuees should register on www.redcross.org/safeandwell. Family and friends can check status there and also by phone at 719-785-2724.

11:10 p.m.

This from an Air Force Academy press release:

In an effort to reduce the footprint of cadets on the Air Force Academy and focus on the Class of 2016, Academy officials are relocating approximately 550 cadets off of Academy grounds.

Approximately 200 summer academics cadets will be temporarily relocated to the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs campus tonight in an effort to continue the mission of developing leaders of character for the United States Air Force and our nation.

"UCCS has been a terrific partner helping our faculty and cadets continue our academic programs while we focus on the Class of 2016 and in-processing," said Brig. Gen. Dana Born, dean of faculty.

Commanders have suspended the airmanship program due to the current operational support of the Waldo Canyon Fire, and other training programs have also been postponed. These approximately 350 cadets have been released to their local sponsor families.

Academy officials want to ensure the public that the cadet area is currently not in imminent danger.

Class of 2016 in-processing will occur as scheduled Thursday on the Air Force Academy.  Mission-essential personnel and all those supporting in-processing should report for duty as scheduled.  All other base operations will be closed. 

All medical appointments are cancelled through Friday.  Patients will be contacted to reschedule appointments.

For continuing updates, go to www.usafa.af.mil/news/fire.asp.

11:04 p.m.

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who owns a bed and breakfast in Old Colorado City with her husband Welling, posted this on Twitter #waldocanyonfire: We some lovely rooms with private baths at Holden House. Call the inn at 471-3980 9 am to 9pm. Special rate for fire evacuees. www.HoldenHouse.com

10:58 p.m.

Diana Rehling came to Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter with her family fairly recently, when they believed their Old Colorado City neighborhood was under evacuations orders.

"It was an on again, off again thing all day," she said. "I wanted my family to be safe."

She and her family were headed home, but she said staying at the shelter has been a help, especially the chances to speak with other families.

There is heartbreak, she said, as people at the shelter spend time combing the Internet on library-provided computers for photos that may show whether or not their home survived.

 "This one lady, no one will tell her if she lost her home," she said.

10:51 p.m.

There's a constant flow of people and supplies at Red Cross shelters across the region.

"In terms of resources, we have plenty," said Bill Fortune with the Red Cross at Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter.

Information is the one thing people want the most, he said, adding that the Red Cross is trying to schedule a community meeting to update people on the fire.

10:15

Army engineers from Fort Carson who were working on building fire breaks along Highway 24 have shifted their resources to the Air Force Academy. The Academy asked the Army for aid in building fire breaks around the school's boundaries.

The Army has committed 121 troops to helping the Academy, along with with 10 heavy bulldozers, four excavators, two wreckers, two flatbed trucks, two fuel trucks, 13 military transportation and support vehicles and a commercial road grader.

An Army spokesman said in a statement that Fort Carson is prepared to devote as much of its resources as possible to fighting the fire.

10:04

According to a Facebook post from Pikespeakarea Crime Stoppers, it's "pouring rain" in southwest Colorado Springs.

9:55

As of 5 p.m., there were a total of 408 evacuees being sheltered at five aid stations around Colorado Springs, and volunteers said there's plenty of room left.

At Summit Elementary, there were 72 evacuees. The southeast YMCA was hosting 65 evacuees. Cheyenne Mountain High School has 139 evacuees. Lewis Palmer High School is housing 46 evacuees. And Victor High School has 86 evacuees.

9:42

The public services organization Aspenpointe has shut down one facility temporarily and is reorganizing its programs due to the fire.

Its Moreno Adult Services facility has been closed until Friday, and a shuttle service has been set up for clients who show up there. Staff from the ACCESS Center has been transferred to the Aspenpointe facility on Ruskin Dr., and services have been added at the Lehman facility.

Clients' medical appointments will be kept, but have been moved to the Lighthouse on Parkside Dr.

Aspenpointe will also transport clients to the Phoenix Tower, Ruskin and Lehman Rd. facilities, which will provide additional services.

All clinical appointments for adults have been canceled through Friday. Anyone in urgent need should call 572-6100.

The Cafe at the Citizen's Service Center will also be closed, through Tuesday, July 3, due to mandatory evacuations.

9:35

As of 9:20 p.m., the fire now covers 18,500 acres, and has cost $3.2 million. There are 1,008 personnel on scene, and 68 fire engines. Fire fighters from as far away as Iowa and Indiana are helping battle the blaze.

There are six helicopters on scene--two Type 1, two Type 2, and two Type 3. Fire fighters have three bulldozers to help build fire lines, and three water tenders.

No more residents have been evacuated, and no more evacuation orders have been issued for any neighborhoods or towns.

However, 20,085 homes and 160 commercial properties are threatened by the flames.

The fire now covers 15,622 acres of US Forest Service land, 2,866 acres of private property and 12 acres owned by the Department of Defense.


8:10

Care and Share's food pantries are open to evacuees at the following locations:

On the north side of town:

The Food Pantry -- 5580 N. Nevada Ave. -- Saturday (6/30): 8a-4p

Mercy’s Gate -- 4210 Austin Bluffs Pkwy -- Thu & Fri (6/28-29): 9a-4p

On the West side of town:

Silver Key -- 2250 Bott Ave. -- Mon-Fri: 9a-5p

Trinity United Methodist Church -- 701 N. 20th St. -- Tues: 1p-3p

Westside Community Center -- 1628 W. Bijou -- Mon-Fri: 9a-4p

Sacred Heart Catholic Church -- 2021 W. Pikes Peak -- Mon – Fri: 9a-4p

In central Colorado Springs:

Crossfire Ministries -- 2120 E. LaSalle St. -- Tue thru Thu: 10-4,  Sat 9a-12p

Seventh Day Adventist Church -- 1305 N. Union Blvd. -- Mon: 10a-2:30p

In Divide:

Little Chapel in Divide -- 69 County Rd 5 -- call 322-7610 for an appointment. 2nd and 4th Mondays:  4:30p-6:30p

In Monument:

Tri-Lakes Cares -- 235 Jefferson St. -- Mon and Thu: 12p-3p, 6p-8p

8:05

The El Paso County Citizens Service Center has shut down until further notice. To help make up for the lack of services, the county has set up food assistance services at 17 N. Spruce St., beginning tomorrow morning at 1 p.m.

Caseworkers for child and adult protective services are working from remote locations, and can be reached by phone. The Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is 444-5700, and the Adult Abuse and Neglect Intake Line is 444-5755.

The Public Health Department can be reached at 578-3199 for those who have questions about birth and death certificates, clinics and immunizations.

Staff for the Women Infant and Children department will have food vouchers available for clients who need infant or special formula, and to clients who typically visit the Citizen Services Center. WIC clients can also go to 97 Widefield Blvd., in Widefield, 80911. For more information, call 578-3199.

Unemployment insurance claims can still be filed, at the Pikes Peak Workforce Center at the Lorraine Center, at 301 E. Iowa Ave., in Fountain. For more information, call 444-8311.

The county assessor's department and services are still available online.

The county treasurer will accept late tax payments starting July 3 at the Citizens Service Center.

Three of the county clerk and recorder's offices will remain open. The central office, on W. Garden of the Gods Rd., will be closed until the evacuation order is lifted. The three open offices are: the corner of Airport and Powers, the Union Tower Center at 8830 N. Union Blvd., and Centennial Hall at 200 S. Cascade.

6:55 p.m.
The Pikes Peak Arts Fest, scheduled for this weekend, has been canceled because of the fire.

6:51 p.m.
If the fire has caused you to be unemployed or your workplace has been affected, you may be able to get unemployment benefits. Here's the info from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment:

In response to inquiries from individuals who have become unemployed because of a wildfire evacuation or because their worksite has been impacted by a wildfire, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment announced today that these individuals may be eligible for unemployment benefits and should file a claim online.

Individuals may be eligible for unemployment assistance if their unemployment resulted from the physical damage or destruction of their place of employment or because of the physical inaccessibility of the worksite due to its closure by the federal, state or local government in immediate response to a wildfire.

Claims can be filed at www.colorado.gov/cdle (click on “file or reopen an unemployment claim”).

In addition, the Department of Labor and Employment is announcing that individuals who are currently receiving unemployment benefits while living in a burn area will receive a waiver from their requirement to seek work beginning the week the fire began in their area.  The High Park Wildfire began on June 9 and the start date for both the Weber Fire and the Waldo Canyon Fire was June 24.

These individuals must continue requesting payment of unemployment benefits as they always have.  As long as the fire is the only circumstance that is preventing them from looking for work, they should report that they are able to work, available and looking for work.

Some claimants impacted by one of the fires may currently be receiving Emergency Unemployment Compensation (benefit payments that are beyond the initial 26 weeks).  Under normal circumstances, to remain eligible for those federal benefits, individuals must complete a series of reemployment services within six weeks.  However, for the immediate future, the Department of Labor and Employment is extending the amount of time in which those claimants must complete the services.

The Division of Unemployment Insurance will verify that affected individuals’ addresses are in burn or evacuation areas (currently, these include 80512, 80526, 80535, 80536, 80538, 80809, 80819, 80840, 80904, 80907, 80919 and 80921) and that their usual requirements for Unemployment Insurance benefits are being temporarily waived.  They will still be required to complete all of the services in the future.

More information on these waivers is available on the News and Alerts section of the Department of Labor and Employment’s website (go to www.colorado.gov/cdle and look for “News and Alerts” at the bottom of the home page).  The Department is also utilizing social media, hold messages, and is working with Workforce Centers in affected parts of the state in providing information to affected claimants.

Colorado has not yet been deemed eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), a federal program that provides temporary financial assistance to workers and self-employed individuals who have lost their jobs because of a disaster and who do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits.  If DUA should become available to Colorado, the Department of Labor and Employment will notify news outlets and conduct an outreach effort to potentially eligible victims.

6:20 p.m.
Faced with epic conditions and safety concerns related to the wildfires threatening Colorado Springs and nearby communities, the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, scheduled for Sunday, July 8, is being postponed until later in the summer.

6:19 p.m.
A firefighter told reporter Ryan Maye Handy today that during a briefing, crews learned that 200 to 300 homes have been lost. He said it was difficult to be accurate about the number, since the devastation is so complete that you can't even make out addresses.

6 p.m.
Scanner chatter throughout the day tells of fire crews working diligently to save structures, but having to retreat at times because of wind-drive flames and smoke.

5:57 p.m.
The Colorado Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau has set up a webpage, www.visitcos.com/fireinfo, to list lodging with confirmed availability. The list will be updated if hotels/motels provide info, but just in case, call the properties' numbers, which are included on the list.

5:45 p.m.
A new Incident Information Report gives the numbers: 15,517 acres burned, 20,085 residences and 160 commercial structures threatened, 32,000 evacuated. Read the report at http://inciweb.org/incident/article/14523.


5:34 p.m.

County and state officials described a bleak, apocaplytpic scene inside the fire-torn area on the city's northwest side.

“Iit’s like a war zone, if you will.” said Steve Cox, the mayor's chief of economic vitality and innovation.

Amy Lathen, chair of the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, described the devasastion as “surreal.”

“Entire blocks – gone,” she said.

She and commissioner Sallie Clark were taken on a tour of the burned-out neighborhoods by Fire Marshal Scott Campbell. Halfway along their tour, Campbell noticed barkchips beginning to ignite in front of a house that escaped unscathed the night before.

Campbell jumped out of the truck and began digging soil onto the smoking pieces of bark. After a few minutes, more smoke appeared on the side of the house. He managed to put out both blazes with a garden hose.

“It blew up," said Lathen, who credited Campbell with saving two houses.

"The winds are so strong that they're knocking over tree branches," Lathen said. Cars are burned out, and chimney stacks are all that is left of some houses.

5 p.m.
And the generosity just continues. Some examples:

  • The El Pomar Foundation has set up a victims assistance fund that it seeded with $100,000. It will be administered by Pikes Peak United Way. Donors can send contributions to: Pikes Peak United Way, Attn: Waldo Canyon Fire Victim Assistance Fund, 518 N. Nevada Avenue, 80903.
  • In all, El Pomar has made about $500,000 in grants to help the people fighting fires and the fire victims throughout Colorado. Another $2 million is committed to the effort, to be allocated on an as-needed basis.
  • UCCS is accommodating evacuees in housing as space allows. The campus placed more than 80 evacuees Tuesday night in university housing and will continue to accept those who are evacuated for as long as there is space available. Spaces will be made available at no charge for up to three days. Warning: there is no A/C. If you need housing, call 719-255-4042.
  • The Denver Broncos pledged to make a $50,000 donation to assist with relief efforts for the wildfires burning in Colorado.
  • Frontier Airlines is saiving change fees and enacting a flexible policy for travel to or from Colorado Springs from June 27 to July 4., who bought tickets on or before June 27. Customers who have already started their travel may make one itinerary change.

4:46 p.m.

Hot shots are on their way! Here's the press release from Vandenberg AFB:

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Air Force Space Command deployed the only Department of Defense wildland fire fighting asset from Vandenberg at 2 p.m. June 27 in support of the wildland fire fighting efforts in Colorado Springs.

The 18-member Vandenberg Hot Shot crew, along with two hot shots crew carrier vehicles, one superintendant support vehicle and one all terrain vehicle, loaded into the belly of a C-17 Globemaster from March Air Reserve Base at approximately 1 p.m. on June 27.

"This is national support at its finest," said Mark Farias, Vandenberg Fire Department chief. "Vandenberg Hot Shots, being the only DoD hot shots, bring a critical skill set to the fight. These guys will be on the front lines of this wildfire using their training regarding wildfires and urban interface to save lives and structures in the state of Colorado."

The hot shots will most likely be assigned to the Waldo Canyon Fire. As that fire rages in Colorado Springs, engulfing more than 15,517 acres, many military bases and residential areas are in danger and facing mandatory evacuation. This hot shots crew has been explicitly trained to save structures, not just to extinguish the flames.

"When a building or community faces a wild fire danger we use structure triage," said Jesse Hendricks, Vandenberg Hot Shots superintendent. "First we remove any fuel source, like trees or shrubbery, from around the home using hand tools. Once we've created an area clear of fuels, we actually burn a fire around the structure that will carry the initial fire away from the homes."

Vandenberg's Hot Shots are going into this inferno mentally and physically prepared.

"We all got into the mindset that this is going to be a nasty situation," Hendricks said. "We understand fatigue will be a factor, so we are all hydrating and are trying to get as much sleep as we can before getting to Colorado. When we go into any wildfire we try to relate it to our 'mental slides,' meaning that we recall similar wildfires and pull from those lessons learned so that we will be more effective."

Vandenberg's Fire Chief feels confident that this hot shot crew will prove to be a valuable asset to the containment of the Colorado wildfire.

"Thousands of people and homes are threatened, but the most skilled DoD wildland fire fighters are being deployed. Our hot shots are difference makers, having saved this base numerous times, our surrounding communities and now Colorado Springs," Farias said.

4:04 p.m.

From latest press conference:
Fire service spokeswoman Jerri Marr:
"We are working with the military. This is a unified team."
They are still sticking with this morning's measure of 15,324 acres burned.

Steve Cox, Mayor Bach's representative:
He is looking at the property assessment issue. "We started that assessment today. I don't have any numbers for you today." They are trying to create a process for citizens to get information on their homes. "Our intent is that we will have a meeting with those folks." We would ask that media would respect that process."

"In the next 24 hours, we hope to have a little more definitive information on numbers of people impacted, and also on the process itself."

Fire Chief Rich Brown:
"The conditions are exactly what we predicted. They are erratic."
There is quite a bit of activity going on. "We are fighting these fires very, very aggressively, yet very safely."

Firefighters are trying to put out burning embers and hot spots.

"This is still an active fire. We have the firefight and the overhaul. We're nowhere near the overhaul."

Firefighters are checking for fires and structural stability, and trying to save structures. They're also taking care of open gas mains. "But it's not a safe area for anyone to be there right now."

Police Chief Pete Carey

About 70 law enforcement officers are patrolling around the affected area. Other departments helping out include Fountain, El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the DEA, the FBI, Aurora PD, Pueblo PD, ATF and Colo State Patrol.

Incident commander Rich Harvey
"I'd like to start by saying, I hate wind. I wish it would go away." We were able to make good progress and hold along Highway 24. We've been pounding it from the air with the heavy helipcopters.

Fire is in Sand Gulch area, and "we're a little ahead of that." Crews taking brush out.

They're holding along Rampart Road near the reservoir.

A spot fire is threatening a repeater site at Stanley. "We're concerned about that. We have a helicopter working it."

Another concern: "Winds are pushing fire back toward Colorado Springs back where it hit us yesterday." But crews are on it.

Spot fires and embers are creating secondary fires.

There is a specially trained meterologist on site.

Harvey said weather conditions are better today than yesterday, with more cloud cover and slightly higher humidity, but not enough to make a difference. Today, however, crews are more prepared for the possibility of rapidly moving flames.

"We were prepared for it yesterday, but it moved astronomically fast," Harvey said. "You can fool us once, but not twice. Today, we are prepared for it to move astronomically fast."

Harvey also said this fire is one for the history books. It's been going in different directions, and it's spread fast.

"I've been doing this for a long time, and I've never seen a (fire) progression map look like that," he said.

3:48 p.m.

Mount St. Francis had to transfer 100-plus nursing home residents Tuesday. It's not known whether the home is still standing.

3:45 p.m.
C-130s made 11 drops with 29,700 gallons of retardant as of 3:45 p.m. today

3:40 p.m.
Thunderstorms blowing through the area are creating high winds that have stirred up some flames and forced firefighters to retreat. C-130s are also reportedly grounded. So far, any rain/hail coming from the storms doesn't appear to be helping the situation.

3:26 p.m.
A form on a website has been set up for evacuated residents who are concerned about the status of their home or business. "Your information will be collected and you will be contacted as soon as information is available," the press release says. "Many affected areas are too dangerous for assessment teams to enter, but as they are able to do initial damage assessments of affected areas you will be contacted. www.springsgov.com/template/WaldoCanyonNotify.asp 

3:18 p.m.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation are helping El Paso County authorities in trying to figure out what started the Waldo Canyon fire, an FBI spokesman confirmed Wednesday to The Denver Post.

“The FBI Denver Division is working closely with local, state, and federal law enforcement to determine if any of the wildland fires resulted from criminal activity,” local FBI spokesman Dave Joly wrote in an e-mailed statement.

3:10 p.m.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office has arranged for a special escort to go into the evacuated Citizens Service Center on Garden of the Gods Road and retrieve necessary items to continue processing a relatively few remaining ballots from Tuesday’s primary election. The ballots and necessary equipment will be transported to secure facilities at the Southeast Clerk and Recorder’s office located at Airport Road and Powers Boulevard and the remainder of Tuesday's ballots will be processed there Thursday. 

3:03 p.m.

Black Hills Energy-Colorado Gas announced that natural gas service has been interrupted to evacuated customers in Crystola as a safety precaution; service earlier had been interrupted to customers in Cascade. Restoration efforts will begin as soon as local authorities deem the area safe for residents to return to their homes.

"We continue to monitor the wildfire and will work with local authorities to safely manage natural gas service to all of our customers as appropriate given the unpredictable nature of the fire. Other interruptions may occur as we monitor the situation – we’ll keep you informed," the company said in a release.

3 p.m.

Tweet from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region: NEEDS CRATES/KENNELS TOWELS/BLANKETS DONATED DIRECTLY TO FREEDOM EXPO -3650 N. Nevada Ave #WaldoCanyonFire- #of pet evacs up

2:55 p.m.

From The Gazette's John Schroyer, near the Pleasant Valley area: "Lots of people are hosing down their homes and have their sprinklers on in case the fire reaches this far."

2:48 p.m.

The El Paso County Citizens Service Center at 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road is closed because of the fire, meaning the county is relocating many of its services:

 -- Many Clerk and Recorder services, including marriage licenses and vehicle registration, are available online at http://car.elpasoco.com/MotorVehicle/Pages/default.aspx. There are also auxiliary offices at 8830 N. Union Boulevard; the corner of Airport Road and Powers Boulevard; and 200 S. Cascade Ave.

 -- Assessor's Office property records are searchable online http://land.elpasoco.com/, but there will be a temporary office set up at 1 p.m. Thursday at 2880 International Circle (the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department).

-- The county Department of Human Services (food stamps, social services, foster care, etc.) plans to open a temporary office at 1 p.m. Thursday at 17 N. Spruce St. The front-desk number will be 719-636-0000.

-- El Paso County Public Health will bump up staffing at the Lorraine Center in Fountain, 301 E. Iowa Ave. The county is also looking to open a temporary office Thursday. The location is pending.

The Pikes Peak Workforce Center (where you can check unemployment-benefits eligibility, etc.) is also expanding services at the Lorraine Center in Fountain. There aren't plans to open a temporary Springs office.

County officials are "planning and expecting" to be able to reopen the Citizens Service Center next Tuesday, county spokesman Dave Rose said.

 "We think the additional workload (from the fire) is probably going to be handled online without a glitch," he added

2:30 p.m.

Fire and weather conditions have let up enough to allow residents of the Douglass Valley housing area on the Air Force Academy to re-enter their homes between 3:30 and 5:30 Wednesday so they can grab any items they need. Pine Valley housing remains unsafe for re-entry.

2:28 p.m.

Three C-130s are now flying on the Waldo Canyon fire. The fourth will be back soon. As of 2:15 p.m. Wednesday, C-130s had dropped 27,000 gallons of retardant in 10 drops.

2:22 p.m.

Effective immediately, the following are under pre-evacuation notice:

  1. The remainder of the City of Woodland Park city limits that have not been previously evacuated.
  2. All areas East of CR25 (a.k.a. Tranquil Acres Road and Mocks) to Blossom Road, including the subdivision of Tranquil Acres, North to the intersection of Forest Service Roads 357 and 357b, North on FSR 357 to CR 78 (a.k.a. Painted Rocks Road), North to the Douglas County Line. 

2:11 p.m.
Authorities said on Wednesday afternoon that the growing number of evacuations and pre-evacuations aren’t keeping them from keeping watch over the thousands of houses that already sit vacant.

Officers with several out-of-town agencies, including the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado Department of Corrections, have been sent in to man road closure points and to patrol the evacuated areas on the lookout for looters.

There have been no reports of break-ins since the first evacuations were ordered on Saturday, said Anne Rys-Sikora, a spokeswoman for fire and emergency crews.

“There is a concern and it is being addressed,” Rys-Sikora said. “Clearly, we are not doing this alone.”

2:10 p.m.
Because of high demand, http://springsgov.com will be down from 2:30-2:45 p.m. Refer to http://inciweb.org for official fire information.

2:07 p.m.
Goodwill of Southern and Western Colorado is closing the following operations until further notice:

  • Administrative Offices, located at the Garden of the Gods campus
  • United States Air Force Academy -- Goodwill janitorial staffing
  • Career Development Center, located at the Citizens Service Center
  • North and West Recreation and Leisure Centers
  • Possibilities life-skills program
  • Voyages adult day program
  • Garden of the Gods and Rockrimmon (at Safeway) Attended Donation Centers
  • Woodland Park Retail and Attended Donation Center

1:50 p.m.
Scanner:  Fire crews asking for more people near upper Blodgett: "As of right now I cannot hold this hill."

1:41 p.m.
Scanner: Fire is following back side of ridge toward Teller County. Re: smoke: "It's huge, I would estimate 2-3 miles in width."


1:37 p.m.
Traffic is slow on I-25 near AF Academy as drivers watch Blodgett Peak burn.


1:26 p.m.
Obama is coming Friday to tour the fire area. Here's a press release from the White House:

Today, President Obama called Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper as well as Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach to receive an update on damaging fires that are impacting a number of communities across the state, including the devastating Waldo Canyon fire that is affecting families, homes and businesses in Colorado Springs, CO. The President expressed his concern about the extent of damage to homes in the Colorado Springs area, and informed both the Governor and the Mayor that he plans to travel to the area Friday to view the damage and thank the responders bravely battling the fire.

The President reiterated his administration’s focus, through the US Forest Service as well as the Department of Interior and FEMA, on continuing to bring all resources to bear to assist local responders in Colorado and a number of Western States currently being impacted by fires. Seventeen air tankers have cycled in and out of firefighting action over the last 48 hours across the western states. More than 8,400 personnel, 578 fire engines and 79 helicopters are operating on wildfires around the U.S., with more than half of active federal wildfire-fighting resources are currently staged in Colorado.

Federal support is also being provided to local officials battling fires in Alaska, Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The President made clear that he has directed his team to remain focused on the fires. He asked the Governor and the Mayor to identify any additional resources that could be provided and informed both that his thoughts and prayers are with responders and families impacted by these and other fires burning across the western United States.

1:23 p.m.
PRE-EVACUATION: N of Air Force Academy to County Line, West of I-25 including Moument & Palmer Lake

1:18 p.m.
Safeway, Wal-Mart and any gas stations in the mandatory evacuation areas in and near Woodland Park have been asked to remain open by the city.

1:14 p.m.
Updated map of evacuation area can be found at http://www3.gazette.com/fire/

1:09 p.m.
Obama is reportedly coming to Colorado Springs on Friday to view the Waldo Canyon Fire area. We are confirming.

1:08 p.m.

Lt. Gen. Michael Gould said the Air Force Academy will press ahead with plans to welcome the incoming class of 2016 on Thursday – though in-processing will take place at the Cadet Field House instead of Doolittle Hall.

"There will be no worries for moms and dads," Gould said. "We'll take care of these young men and women. If there were dangers, we would turn this off and do it another day. But we have a tremendous plan in place, and everybody is postured well to be able to in-process."

The Air Force Academy ordered more than 2,200 airmen to evacuate Tuesday night as the Waldo Canyon fire blew up. The 1,800 cadets remain in dorms.

The cadet area is among the safest on campus, said Col. Tim Gibson, 10th Air Base wing commander.

If the fire takes an unexpected turn and cadets must be evacuated, the plan is call upon sponsor families to house them.

If sponsor families are unavailable, other hosts will be found.

"The community has reached out to help with offers of support," said Air Force Academy spokesman Dave Cannon.

Meanwhile, the fire has hit about 10 acres on AFA property, and about 90 firefighters are working on it -- half AFA crews, half from other jurisdictions. 

1:07 p.m.

From press release: In response to a request made by El Paso County officials, Fort Carson is providing equipment and Soldier support to local firefighting efforts.

Fort Carson provided three heavy bulldozers at approximately 10 a.m. to support firebreak construction as part of ongoing efforts from local firefighters to contain the Waldo Canyon Fire. A fuel truck and maintenance team will provide support for the bulldozers.

Eighteen Soldiers will operate under the direction of civil authorities and will not be in direct contact with firefighting efforts.

1:02 p.m.
"I think every brush truck in the area is engaged. I don't think we're going to get another." -- scanner chatter.

12:58 p.m.
After a city council meeting Wednesday, Mayor Steve Bach praised the way Tuesday night's massive evacuations were handled.

"Nobody got hurt as far as we know," he said, his eyes red from smoke and a lack of sleep. "We evacuated 26,000 people yesterday with no accidents."

However, he said, the status of some people in Mountain Shadows who had refused to evacuate was not yet known.

Bach said officials were erring on the safe side with today's evacuation orders.

"I think we're getting very conservative now, but that's appropriate," he said.

Bach said he had just toured the site of the Flying W Ranch.

"It's gone," he said. "Everything is scorched."

12:57 p.m.:
Confirmed -- mandatory evac for all of Crystola, which straddle El Paso County and Teller County.

12:51 p.m. PRE-EVACUATIONnotice: Holland Park- Fillmore to Garden of the Gods, Centennial to I-25. Here's the news release from the city:

  • Gateway Road to the north, heading east to North 30th Street, which then heads south to Fontanero Street and west to 31st Street
  • South on 31st Street to Highway 24
  • West on Highway 24 to the Colorado Springs city limits; at this point the boundary follows the city limit north and slightly west to Garden Lane
  • Garden Lane north to Gateway Road

Holland Park

  • Garden of the Gods Road as the northern boundary
  • Centennial Blvd is the western boundary
  • I-25 is the eastern boundary
  • Fillmore Street as the southern boundary

12:39 p.m. Pre-evacuation notices have been issued to some areas of Monument. Those include areas of Monument west of I-25 and south of County Line Road, according to Monument police.

12:29 p.m. Residents and businesses in the area of West Colorado Avenue at 31st Street are getting evacuation calls.

12:20 p.m. Pre-evacuation order for North Pleasant Valley confirmed.

12:18 p.m. Briefing under way at Air Force Academy. Strategy: Hold the fire at the AFA's borders. If that fails, firefighters will fall back to protect hospital, cadet area.

Fire has encroached 10 acres onto the academy. Flames are still a quarter-mile from nearest structures in Pine Valley area, the southernmost housing area.

"We're facing a potentially devastating disaster right here," said  academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould. "We're well prepared."

The Class of 2016 will still be welcomed Thursday as scheduled. If the cadet area must be evacuated, cadets will be sent to stay with sponsor families.

11:39 a.m. Tweets from Gazette's Matt Steiner:  Woodland Park mayor says evacuations will begin of formerly announced "pre-evacuation areas." Others will be on standby.

Everything west of Baldwin/Rampart Range Road, portions west of Highway 24 and south of downtown will be on mandatory evacuation.

The city manager of Woodland Park said the fear is that there will be a weather run like the day before.

11:18 a.m. Some at Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard were scoping out their neighborhoods Wednesday morning, checking to see if ther houses still stand.

"The deck's fine, the chicken coop is fine. All the trees are fine," Ken Barker, who lives on Lanagan Street, said while on the phone with his wife, who was back in a hotel.

He continued the grim assessment over the phone: At leat three houses on that street that he could once see were gone.

He later pointed to a dark spot on the south part of the ridge. "That was a house and it's completely gone," Barker said.

"My house is still standing," he said. "I'm pretty happy right now."

11:02 a.m. From School District 11: Chipeta Elementary and Trailblazer Elementary have sustained smoke damage, but both schools are still standing.

10:57 a.m.  The Greater Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC State of the City luncheon scheduled for Thursday has been postponed because of the fire. A new date has not been decided.

10:52 a.m. Woodland Park city manager David Buttery will give a live fire update via the Internet and local cable Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. The broadcast will be streamed live at city-woodlandpark.org and on Woodland Park cable channel 10.

10:33 a.m. Some progress on another fire front. The Denver Post reports that the majority of residents who fled the High Park Fire in the mountains west of Fort Collins should be back in their homes over the next 48 hours. The fire, started by a lightning strike on June 9, has burned 87,250 acres and is 65 percent contained. The estimated cost of fighting the fire is $33.1 million.

10:15 a.m. The 10th Air Base Wing commander, Col. Tim Gibson, will conduct a news conference at noon at the Air Force Academy to provide updates on base operational procedures related to the Waldo Canyon fire. A Gazette reporter will be there.

10:11 a.m. From Colorado Springs District 11: Due to the Waldo Canyon fire, part of Colorado Springs School District 11's summer food sites will temporarily close.  The food sites closed are: Hunt Elementary, 917 E. Moreno Avenue; Rogers Elementary, 110 South Circle; and Wilson Elementary 1409 DeReamer Circle.

9:56 a.m. As if firefighters and residents didn't have enough to deal with, forecasters have issued a flash flood warning for Wednesday for the area of the Waldo Canyon fire.

The National Weather Service in Pueblo has issued a flash flood watch for El Paso and Teller counties, specifically the newly burned areas. Forecasters say a cold front, which could trigger thunderstorms, is expected to move into the area Wednesday afternoon. The moisture would be welcome, but with little vegetation left in the hills above Manitou Springs and Old Colorado City, forecasters warn flash flooding could occur in those areas.

9:37 a.m. Douglas Regional 9-1-1 has issued a pre-evacuation warning: "The Waldo Canyon fire burning in El Paso County is expanding and poses a threat to residents of southwestern Douglas County. The specific area included in this pre-evacuation warning is bounded by the Palmer Divide Road on the south, Noe Road on the north, Spruce Mountain on the east, and Rampart Range Rd.on the west.

"Residents in the affected area need to make immediate plans for the evacuation and care of family members and animals.  The Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock can accommodate evacuees and large animals should an evacuation become necessary.  Residents are urged to gather important documents, medications, and important personal effects so that they will be immediately available should conditions deteriorate."

9:25: a.m. The city announced more site closures Wednesday because of the poor air quality: Julie Penrose Fountain, Uncle Wilbur Fountain, Deerfield Hills Community Center Sprayground, Young Starz Camp and Park and Rec Cheerleading Camp. All city of Colorado Springs adult and youth Parks and Recreation sports programs have been cancelled.

9 a.m. At least 100 homes, likely more, were burned when the Waldo Canyon fire roared into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood Tuesday, according to an official who declined to be named Wednesday morning.

8:40 a.m. Memorial Health System said in a news release that it has treated about 20 patients in the last 24 hours for respiratory-related illnesses in emergency departments at Memorial Hospital Central and Memorial Hospital North. Of those, roughly half have been admitted.

While respiratory illnesses cannot directly be attributed to the smoke, poor air quality is a concern and believed to be a factor, the release said.

8:21 a.m. From morning media briefing: The Waldo Canyon fire has exploded in size, growing to 15,324 acres.

On Tuesday, the fire jumped two containment lines and raced into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, where many homes were destroyed. At the briefing, Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown said he was not prepared to say how many homes had burned.

"We don't know the number of homes lost," he said. Crews had been battling the blaze "all night long," he said.

"This is not a defensive situation by any means," he said. Two-hundred more firefighters were brought in Tuesday night to battle the spreading fire.

"We've had way more successes than we have failures," said Jerri Marr, forest supervisor.

The cause of the fire, she said, remains unknown. A tip line seeking leads from the public has been flooded with calls. There is no "person of interest."

Officials said there have been no reports of injuries and they are not aware of anyone not accounted for. The fire remains only 5 percent contained.

"This is a very difficult time for our city, but we will get through this together," Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said. He saluted those police officers who helped thousands flee the blaze Tuesday night.

More than 32,000 people have been evacuated. No new evacuation orders were issued Wednesday morning.

Wednesday looks to be another tough day for firefighters.

"We do expect all of our lines to be challenged today," incident commander Richard Harvey said of the chance for erratic winds from thunderstorms.

Jill Law of El Paso County Public Health, meanwhile, warned the public that air quality remains unhealthy and advised people to stay indoors if possible.

Colorado Springs Utilities officials were on hand to assure that water quality has not been compromised because of the fire. Gas service has been cut off to evacuated areas.

Highway 24 remains closed between Cave of the Winds and Crystola. The fire line there has held, officials said. A spot fire did erupt on the south side of the highway, but was quickly put out.

Blowing embers, which can travel more than a half-mile, are a major concern; 65 percent of embers are starting fires, officials said.

7:52 a.m. Panel discussion that had been set for Wednesday night at Colorado College on religious freedom has been cancelled because of the fire.

7:47 a.m. From the Air Force Academy: Approximately 1,000 Air Force Academy cadet appointees are expected to arrive in the area for in-processing Thursday morning. AFA officials want to assure the public that there is a plan in place to take care of all cadets, to include appointees. Though cadet in-processing is still scheduled for Thursday, the reporting location has changed to the Cadet Field House instead of Doolittle Hall.  Appointees should report at their previously scheduled report time.  All appointees should enter the Academy through the North Gate to access the Cadet Field House. 

Any changes or updates on in-processing and cadet appointee reporting instructions will be posted on the USAFA Web page, www.usafa.af.mil.  Click on the "Waldo Canyon Fire" tab.

7:17 a.m. The spread of the Waldo Canyon fire has forced more changes in mail delivery. 

If you receive mail at the Air Force Academy, 80840, your mail will be available for pickup at Briargate Station, 8585 Criterion Dr. Hours of service are from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

If you receive mail out of Rockrimmon Station, 80919/80949, mail will be available for pickup at Templeton Station, 4356 Montebello Dr. Hours are from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m.

If you receive mail out of North End Station, 80907, Holland Park, West Centennial and Garden of the Gods area, mail will be available for pickup at North End Station, 2940 N Prospect. Hours are 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

These changes were announced previously:

If you live in Green Mountain Falls, 80819, mail pickup will be out of the Woodland Park, Tamarac Station, 900 Tamarac Parkway.  Hours are from 9 a.m. -5:00 p.m.

 If you live in Cascade, 80809, mail pickup will be at the Colorado Springs West End Retail Unit, located at 204 S. 25th St. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

If you live in the Cedar Heights and Kissing Camel area, ZIP 80904, mail pickup will be at the Colorado Springs West End Retail Unit.

6:48 a.m. Tweet from Pikes Peak Humane Society: HSPPR reopened Freedom Financial Services Expo Center for pet evacuees. Location: 3650 N. Nevada Ave #WaldoCanyonFire PLNTY OF ROOM 4 PETS

6:45 a.m.  To register a phone number (mobile or land) for reverse 911, go to www.elpasoteller911.org or call 719-471-6700. Those with Internet access are urged to register online because of a high volume of calls, but are cautioned that the website may be slow as well.

6:35 a.m. From Woodmen Valley Chapel: Woodmen Valley's Rockrimmon Campus remains under mandatory evacuation. All events on both campuses are cancelled and offices are closed. Updates will be on www.woodmenvalley.org/waldocanyonfire.

6:17 a.m. All exit ramps from I-25 are open.  However, in three locations drivers will not be able to proceed west after exiting, but will be diverted to the north, south or east. Those exits are at Woodmen Road, Nevada/Rockrimmon and Garden of the God Road.

6:11 a.m. Tweet from Gazette reporter Ryan Maye Handy, who will be covering the 8 a.m. media briefing: "At UCCS. Air dense with smoke from #waldocanyonfire. Sun about to rise--looks like a blood orange."

5:58 a.m. I-25 is open both directions but westbound exits from Woodmen to Fillmore from the freeway are inaccessible to keep people from getting to evacuated neighborhoods.

5:21 a.m. Next briefing on Waldo Canyon fire is 8 a.m. at UCCS rec center parking lot. The Gazette will be there and provide the latest info.

4:30 a.m. Care & Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado needs volunteers to help with the heavy donations and dispersement. Please call 719-434-5724 after 8 a.m. to schedule a time.

4:03 a.m. Wednesday's high temperature, according to the National Weather Service, is 97 in the Springs. Winds will be southwest-west at 10-15 mph with 20 percent chance of a thunderstorm. A dry thunderstorm, producing lightning and gusty winds, is possible. Thursday's weather is expected to be about the same.

 

 

Residents of Colorado Springs are waking up – if they slept at all – to a new city Wednesday. And it’s not a pretty sight.

Some neighborhoods in the northwest part of the Springs will be unrecognizable, charred by a raging, aggressive and unpredictable fire that has forced more than 32,000 people to vacate their homes.

The Waldo Canyon fire is in its fifth day of destruction, but no structures were lost until Tuesday. The urban wildfire exploded when it moved past Queen’s Canyon and shocked firefighters by jumping two containment lines and racing into Mountain Shadows, where many homes were destroyed.

As the fire burned in Mountain Shadows, smoke filled surrounding neighborhoods as emotional citizens hurriedly packed their vehicles with important documents and priceless mementos.

The fire moved swiftly and police cordoned off neighborhoods shortly after pre-evacuation notices were sent, frustrating some citizens who weren’t allowed to rescue their pets or valuables.

The evacuation of all neighborhoods west of Interstate 25 from Garden of the Gods Road to the Air Force Academy clogged traffic. Hundreds lined the roads – some taking photos, others simply staring blankly as dark smoke filled the sky – and houses burned.

Phone calls to a dozen Colorado Springs hotels revealed no available rooms in the city. A south Denver hotel employee said he thought no rooms were to be had in Denver but Limon hotels had availability. Manitou Springs hotels reported a few dozen vacancies.

The Antlers Hilton opened a ballroom for about 60 evacuees to bed down on the floor.

It’s unknown when residents will be allowed to return to their homes, or find out if their home survived.

The dawn will give Colorado Springs a better idea of the fate of homes, churches, schools and businesses.

Scores of area employers – including Aeroflex, Hewlett Packard and Verizon – have buildings in the evacuated zone.

Many businesses are closed and some El Paso County services – such as the Department of Human Services and the Workforce Center – will be shut down as the Citizens Service Center on West Garden of the Gods Road was evacuated Tuesday evening.

City bus service and FrontRange Express to Denver are canceled for Wednesday.

While tens of thousands of citizens are frightened, uncertain and displaced, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa was optimistic that the human toll of the fire would be light.

He said his office had no reports of actual or suspected casualties from Tuesday's firestorm.

Maketa credited a swift evacuation with saving lives, and said, "Mountain Shadows cleared out pretty quick."

The toll on property, though, will be high. Even when the fire seemed to calm, it remained a raging monster.

"We're at the time of the night that the visual aspect could give you false impressions," he said.

The hottest spots remain off Flying W Ranch Road, where firefighters still worked early Wednesday.

More than 800 firefighters are battling the blaze in shifts. The latest information has the fire covering 6,500 acres with five percent containment but those numbers should change after an overnight flight that captured infrared imaging is examined.

A press briefing is scheduled at 8 a.m.

The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center reported, "Significant growth is anticipated with active fire behavior expected overnight."

Sheriff’s office spokesperson Jackie Kirby said there were “no signs of fire” in Ute Valley Park, despite earlier reports. Asked if the fire had crossed Centennial Boulevard, Kirby said that could not be confirmed.

The evacuation area is a ghost town, police say.

"Most of our people have been swept up in the evacuation process," an officer at the department's Gold Hill Division said. “People have been pretty cooperative. If we can't save the houses, at least we can save the people."

A big concern for deputies and police heading into Wednesday morning was guarding the unattended property of thousands of residents who were forced to flee.

Cops – aided by deputies, including many from the jail – manned roadblocks to keep people out.

"They have it blanketed. That's the intention," Maketa said.

But there's little the sheriff can do to ease the uncertainty gripping thousands. It could be days before people learn the fate of the homes they left behind.

"There's going to be as much clarity as we can get," he promised.

There were few rays of hope as the fires glowed in the darkness.

"We're going to get through this," Maketa said. "We just need to stick together."

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