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WALDO CANYON FIRE: Day-by-day timeline - column of smoke west of Colorado Springs turns into deadly wind-blown monster

July 5, 2012
photo - SATURDAY: A pyrocumulus cloud builds over the Waldo Canyon fire. Clint Cooper photographs the fire from a rock outcropping on Pikes Peak Saturday, June 23, 2012.  (Mark Reis, The Gazette) Photo by
SATURDAY: A pyrocumulus cloud builds over the Waldo Canyon fire. Clint Cooper photographs the fire from a rock outcropping on Pikes Peak Saturday, June 23, 2012. (Mark Reis, The Gazette) Photo by  

Shortly before noon June 23, Colorado Springs Fire Department Battalion Chief Randy Royal was driving west on Highway 24. He was preoccupied — checking his radio, waiting for dispatch calls to a fall patient at the Garden of the Gods park — when he heard a call over the radio: “Dispatch, you got reports of fire or smoke above Cedar Heights?” 

Royal looked up at the mountains and saw a perfect column of smoke rising behind the neighborhood.

“My first thought was, ‘Oh no. This is bad,’” he said, a week later.  Royal knew the day’s hot, dry winds could easily make a brush fire uncontrollable.

He pulled over, got out his binoculars and maps and tried to pinpoint flames he could now see flaring up. He called for resources to flood in from points east and west.

Royal and his crews soon would work through the night, battling flames in Cedar Heights.

And that would be just the beginning.

In the ensuing week, the Waldo Canyon fire would become the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, torching more than 340 houses and claiming at least two lives.

Using news releases, emails, Tweets, Facebook postings and The Gazette’s live blog, we’ve put together a timeline of the horrific first week of the Waldo Canyon fire, a monster that might not be fully contained until July 16.



Smoke reports flood 911

About noon: Calls pour in to 911 about a plume of smoke visible throughout the Pikes Peak region. From the east, it appears to rise north of Pikes Peak, above Garden of the Gods. Calls so heavy that officials ask people to stop calling — they know about it. 

12:30-1 p.m.: Cedar Heights gated community north of U.S. 24, near Waldo Canyon, is evacuated, and hikers and vehicles are told to get out.

1-3 p.m.: Fire grows rapidly in all directions, fueled by strong, unpredictable winds in a searing heat. A 150-acres estimate  grows to 600 acres by 3 p.m. Residents of Pyramid Mountain Estates in Cascade start packing, shelters open at Cheyenne Mountain and Woodland Park high schools, and the Norris Penrose Equestrian Center opens to take large animals. As flames approach Cedar Heights, officials evacuate the Garden of the Gods park and urge voluntary evacuations of Chipita Park, Green Mountain Falls and Cascade.  First media briefing at 1:45 p.m. at initial staging area at Red Rocks Shopping Center.

Plane drops retardant at what is initially called the Pyramid Mountain fire. Voluntary evacuations issued for everyone west of 30th Street from Gateway north to Chuckwagon, which encompasses a portion of Mountain Shadows, including the Flying W Ranch.

3-4 p.m.: Planes and helicopters drop water and retardant. Mandatory evacuation issued for parts of Cascade, as well as the areas around Mountain Shadows previously under voluntary evacuation. Parts of Rampart Range Road closed, campsites  evacuated.

Confusion about what to call the fire: Pyramid Mountain or Waldo Canyon. About 4:30 p.m., Waldo Canyon fire becomes  official name. Mayor Bach urges residents to stay vigilant, but calm, and says the fire has been declared a federal emergency. Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown says 23 mph winds are moving the fire northwest away from the city — the best possible direction for firefighters. Fire department spokeswoman Sunny Smaldino says don’t expect a quick fight. About 70 Springs firefighters in 10 vehicles are at the blaze, along with three Colorado Springs Utilities trucks and numerous others from Cascade, Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls and the El Paso County wildland fire team.

4-5 p.m.: Fire officials call fire “erratic.” Off-duty firefighters called in, Air Force Academy airfield becomes staging area for helicopters. Mandatory evacuations include parts of Cascade. New voluntary evacuations include Peregrine, Oakhills, Discovery, Raven Hills, unincorporated Woodmen Valley, Pine Creek estates and  Thunderbird estates. Officers go to homes and use loudspeakers to announce mandatory evacuations. Reverse 911 calls go out. About 200 people from Glen Eyrie Conference Center move to Woodmen Valley Chapel.

5-6 p.m.: Fire moving fast and changing direction. U.S. Forest Service calls it a Type 1 incident, the highest level that signifies its complexity. Fire stats: 300 firefighters, 1,050 homes evacuated, 1,000 acres burned.

6-7 p.m.: Fire has several heads burning in different directions and is hard to fight; Red Cross says 24 people signed into Cheyenne Mountain High School shelter.

7-8 p.m.: Woodmen Valley residents report deer, other wildlife running in a panic.

8-9 p.m.: Evacuations: 1,240 people from 1,000 homes. Firefighters: 350. Structure protection top priority for Sunday. Sheriff Terry Maketa says 2,000 to 2,300 people displaced. People asked to avoid U.S. 24, but it remains open.

9 p.m.-midnight: Fire at 2,000 acres. Evacuations begin about 11:30 p.m. in Manitou Springs, north of U.S. 24, as fire makes an unusual late-night run. Air Force Academy and NORAD firefighters join fight on south side. No cause identified.



Fire forces evacuations

12:01-2 a.m.:  Firefighters in serious battle in Cedar Heights, spot fires crop up. Mandatory evacuations in Manitou Springs and Crystal Park, bringing evacuees to about 7,000.  Flames seen from downtown Colorado Springs as trees torch. “Evergreen trees were just bursting into fireballs,” says Maketa. Fire makes downhill push from Cedar Heights toward Manitou, sending off embers. Three main groups of firefighters on line: Cedar Heights, Glen Eyrie and Mountain Shadows. AFA and Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station units on lines under mutual aid agreements.

3-5 a.m.: About 125 people hole up at Red Cross shelter at Cheyenne Mountain High School, with rush coming from Manitou. Fire moving south and north.

5-9 a.m.: Cascade, Green Mountain Falls and Chipita Park evacuated. Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak Highway close.

9-11 a.m.: Type 1 team will take command. The Incident Information System reports high growth potential  as day heats up and winds strengthen. U.S. 24 closed from 31st Street to the Crystola area. One helicopter, with four on order, that can carry 400 gallons of water, two heavy air tankers and two single-engine air tankers join fight. About 3,000 homes evacuated in El Paso County. Focus on protecting structures and preventing spread. Fire within 1/4 mile of structures. Colorado Springs Utilities bulldozes defensible boundary on western edge of city. Gov. John Hickenlooper visits with Colorado Springs fire chief to discuss situation.

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Teller County Sheriff’s Office issues pre-evacuation notice for south of Woodland Park and west to Edlowe Road. El Paso County commissioners tap into federal funds and resources. C-130 aircraft to join fight Monday. Flare-ups around Cedar Heights, fears fire might jump nearby ridge. Noon message from Colorado Springs officials: “The Waldo Canyon fire has changed course and is presently threatening the Cedar Heights area.”

1-3 p.m.: Reports of flames approaching U.S. 24 from the north in Cascade. Palmer Park closed as a precaution because of high fire danger. Shelter in Teller County moves to Summit Middle School in Divide because of fears Woodland Park might  evacuate. As 3 p.m. approaches, firefighters say winds are shifting. Community support builds, as people offer homes and donations of cash, food, clothing and other items for firefighters and evacuees. Businesses provide discounts and freebies. The city and county issue joint disaster declarations, paving way for federal and state assistance.

3-5 p.m.: Mandatory evacuations in Farish and Carrol Lake areas. More parks close. Some businesses and agencies, including Silver Key Senior Services, announce closures for Monday. City Council cancels Monday and Tuesday meetings. Sheriff Maketa says fire is “probably the greatest natural threat we have ever seen in this community in the past 30 to 40 years.” Fire growing in three directions: northeast toward Cedar Heights, southwest toward U.S. 24 and northwest toward Cascade and Green Mountain Falls. About 11,000 people evacuated, those who refuse to leave “documented,” Maketa says. Nearly $300 million in property threatened. Stats: 2,500 acres, 450 firefighters, three heavy tankers, four single-engine air tankers, two helicopters.

5-7 p.m.: Type 1 incident team takes command. Waldo Canyon trail at center of the burn area. Black Hills Energy shuts gas to Cascade.

El Paso County under a Wildfire Health Smoke Advisory. People with respiratory or heart problems advised to stay inside, warnings of ash and smoke for Colorado Springs.

8-10 p.m.: Mandatory evacuation lifted for Manitou, but remains for Crystal Park. Westbound closure of U.S. 24 moved to west entrance of Manitou. U.S. Forest Service says firefighters “working diligently” to contain and suppress the now 3,600-acre fire. No containment. “Fire personnel focusing on infrastructure protection and containing the fire on the north side of Highway 24.” At evacuation peak this day, more than 13,542 residences, including 120 commercial properties, were threatened, but no structures lost.



‘Things starting to cook up’

12:01 a.m.-9 a.m.: Fire line at Cedar Heights held overnight, but fire crossed Rampart Range Road and got into Queen’s Canyon. Glen Eyrie not in imminent danger. Fire close to U.S. 24, but did not reach it. Fire officials are worried: National Weather Service predicts hot, dry weather for the week, with temperatures reaching 100 degrees Monday and Tuesday and winds up to 30 mph.

Colorado Springs Fire Department says “offensive ops” beginning.  About 6,000 people remain under evacuation, smoke is health risk. Infrared imaging overnight downsizes fire slightly to 3,446 acres.

9-11 a.m.: Incident Information System reports fire fueled by Western long needle pine and short-needle conifers “with heavy dead load” and Gambel oak. “The fast rate of spread influenced with steep topography, dry fuels, southern exposure that is even drier, with up to 30-foot flame lengths,” report says. Fire spits embers up to 1/4 mile, igniting trees outside fire lines. Helicopters continue air assaults. Flames erupt behind a home in Cedar Heights, but no structure burns. Local economist says region could lose “millions” a day from lost business. U.S. Postal Service sets up alternate delivery locations for evacuees.

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Most gas stations in Woodland Park run out of fuel as people prepare for possible evacuation. Air Force Academy closes trails leading west, including popular Blodgett trail. Part of the Santa Fe trail closes. The BLM bans campfires in 21 counties, including El Paso and Teller. Fire crew at the Flying W Ranch punches through the fire line and calls for hand crews — a big offensive move. Two C-130s with the 302nd Airlift Wing prepare to drop retardant.

1-3 p.m.: New Incident Information System report says fire could grow up to 5,000 acres, with an alarming forecast: “High rate of spread potential to the north and east, significant spread possible to the west into Cascade and Green Mountain Falls, and south into Cedar Heights.” Stats: 3,446 acres, eight crews, 17 engines, 6 helicopters, 450 people and two C-130s.  Crews in Waldo Canyon report temperatures rising, extreme fire conditions. “Things are starting to cook up deep in the bowls and drainages,” one firefighter says. Efforts concentrated to keep fire north of U.S. 24, improving line around Cascade, and structure protection in Cedar Heights.

3-5 p.m.: Fire is 5 percent contained, and hasn’t grown much. Firefighters set up two anchor points, safety zones where firefighters can go on offensive. Cascade and Cedar Heights most-threatened communities. About 3,055 people under evacuation. Jerri Marr, forest supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National forests, says fire is top priority in the U.S., based on complexity, movement in multiple directions, shifting winds and proximity to homes. Firefighters try to keep fire from spreading east from Queen’s Canyon, and say Mountain Shadows is “of concern.” “We are doing all we can to make sure it doesn’t spread in that direction,” incident commander Rich Harvey said. Teller County not under immediate threat, but officials reiterate that the fire is “moving in multiple directions.” Forest Service cost to date to fight fire around $750,000. Mayor Bach  expects high local costs because of overtime for police and firefighters. El Paso County Sheriff’s Office establishes tip line for fire investigation. Bach appears on CNN and says Colorado Springs is safe and open for business.

5-7 p.m.: City of Colorado Springs enacts burn ban. Code enforcement complaints rise from people concerned that neighbors’ unkempt yards will fuel a fire.

7-9 p.m.: Two community meetings — one at Colorado Springs shelter, the other in Divide — draw 750 evacuees and others. Fire at 4,000 to 4,500 acres, and it’s moved into Wellington Gulch. Discussion of reopening U.S. 24.

Maketa says officials don’t believe fire is related to a rash of arson fires in Teller County, and assures that active patrols and spotters will watch for spreading embers and looters. When people ask about when evacuation orders will be lifted, the answer is “It depends on where you live.” For Cedar Heights, “maybe in next few days;” for Cascade, it could be two or three days, “maybe even sooner if good things happen.”

9 p.m.-midnight: New report from Joint Information Center: 4,500 acres, 5 percent containment, 4,825 people (2,599 homes) evacuated, and 600 people fighting the fire. “The fire made a significant run today toward Palmer Reservoir and became established across Rampart Range Road.” Estimated containment: July 16. Plan for Tuesday is to keep fire south of Rampart Range Road and out of Queens Canyon, using Hotshot crews and aircraft; continue point protection at Cedar Heights and Cascade, and continue protection around Palmer Reservoir and Eagle Lake Camp. Air Force Academy doolies won’t get  fire-related delay. Their harsh first day of military life will begin as scheduled Thursday. Late-night scanner chatter indicates  blaze is active, with flare-ups on the north and south ends. Spot fires visible from downtown appear to grow on north end. The fire is 1/4 mile from U.S. 24, and no cause established because investigators can’t reach the probable point of origin.



‘Expect extreme fire behavior’

12:01 a.m.-7 a.m.: Scanner traffic indicates a cabin burned at Eagle Lake Camp, the first structure lost. About 3 a.m., the fire roars to full fury in Queens Canyon, huge flames visible from downtown. Colorado State Patrol says fire not threatening to jump Highway 24 at Cascade, but a Colorado Springs fire official says outlook for Cascade is poor. “It’s not a good area with the canyon there,” she says. “That could turn into a chimney.” Smoke hangs over city, Red Flag Warning issued for low humidity and strong winds over fire area, with gusts up to 25 mph. 

7-9 a.m.: Fire has grown to 5,168 acres, 5 percent containment. Incident commander Harvey stresses that controlling the U.S. 24 corridor and Rampart Range Road are critical. Fire “slopped over” Rampart Range Road overnight, consuming about 200 acres, and “top priority today” is to rein in hot spot because safety of large foothills neighborhoods — Cedar Heights, Mountain Shadows, Rockrimmon, Peregrine and Air Force Academy — is “contingent on holding Rampart Ridge.” He says the fire hasn’t really gotten into Queen’s Canyon, but did move into the Rampart Reservoir area. “We expect extreme fire behavior.”

9-11 a.m.: Evacuees from Mountain Shadows allowed back for a 30-minute visit under police escort, but about 11:30, the visits end due to erratic fire behavior. Flames shooting up 200 feet reported near Cedar Heights, 200 yards from houses. Brush trucks converge on scene, but lines hold. Incident commander orders immediate end to evacuees sneaking  into Cedar Heights to collect personal belongings. Scanner traffic from north side: “fire is pushing Queens Canyon pretty hard.” A crew member confirms: “It appears to be coming over the ridge.” But a spotter responds: “The fire is doing what it’s done every day. Coming right up to the ridge and not over it.” Town of Palmer Lake closes Emory Hightower Trailhead and Glen Avenue trail access to the Palmer Lake Reservoir. Air quality deteriorates; people with health conditions urged to stay indoors.

Noon-2 p.m.: Fire information officer Greg Heule gives grim prognosis for afternoon: “The entire perimeter of this fire is a concern.” He mentions Cascade/UtePass, Cedar Heights and Rampart Range Reservoir.

Pre-evacuation notices spread: a portion of Woodland Park, north Mountain Shadows and Peregrine. 

2-4 p.m.: More parks and trails close: Pulpit Rock, Ute Valley, Section 16, Stratton Open Space. Mandatory evacuation order for Crystal Park is downgraded to voluntary, but Maketa urges residents to be ready to evacuate immediately. One official notes  “very significant fire activity” in Queens Canyon, but no confirmation of spread to bottom of canyon. Academy cancels fireworks and other July 4 programs.

4-5 p.m.: During a 4 p.m. news conference, incident commander Harvey notes concern about fire in Queen’s Canyon. He declines to estimate size: “If I told you an acreage right now, it would be wrong in about 10 minutes. It’s getting bigger.” In  middle of briefing, Bach steps to podium to announce mandatory evacuation for the remainder of Mountain Shadows and Peregrine. About 4:30 p.m., flames erupt on face of mountain near Mountain Shadows, the air fills with thick smoke, obscuring the Front Range. “OH DEAR GOD.... this is terrifying,” someone posts on Twitter.

5-6 p.m.: First reports of structures burning, ash falling miles to the east at Stetson Hills Boulevard and Marksheffel Road.

6-7 p.m.: Roads in northwest Springs clogged with people trying to evacuate; scanner reports major destruction. “Multiple structures are on fire on Flying W Ranch Road.” One firefighter reports at least 20 structures burned; another reports 10. Reports of spotty cell phone service, public safety officials ask people to use phones for emergency calls only.

More mandatory evacuations ordered: Rockrimmon, Woodmen Valley, Pinon Valley and Pine Cliff. Residents of Mount St. Francis Nursing Home among the evacuees. Springs Utilities shuts off gas and electricity west of Centennial between Flying W and 30th St. Two main housing areas at AFA placed under pre-evacuation notice. Academy grounds choked with smoke and visibility is low.

7-8 p.m.: Southbound I-25 at Interquest closes to accommodate evacuation. Traffic on Rockrimmon at a standstill, with all four lanes carrying eastbound traffic. Homes in Mountain Shadows burn: “We have structure-to-structure ignition,” one firefighter says.

8-9 p.m.: Firefighter says homes will burn “like this all night unless we get some more resources.” Flying W Ranch reports its buildings burned to the ground. Fire officials blame the sudden eruption of flames on 65 mph winds that drove flames past containment lines. Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown calls it a “firestorm of epic proportions.” Scanner filled with comments from firefighters pledging to stay and save what they can. But they must bypass burning homes to get to those that can be saved. “We’re making stands, we’re saving many homes,” Brown says. Fort Carson opens to house evacuees from Pine Valley and Douglass Valley Housing areas on the AFA. About 100 Springs police officers on the ground, assisting, Chief Pete Carey says. Mandatory evacuations expand to include all areas west and north of Garden of the Gods and I-25. Number of people evacuated: 32,000.

9-10 p.m.: Fire Chief Brown won’t release estimates of the number of structures burned until firefighters assess losses. Urging calm, Maketa says fire commanders trying to assemble additional resources safely and effectively. Evacuation order issued for Kissing Camels. Gov. Hickenlooper flies over stricken area. “It’s like looking at the worst movie set you can imagine. There were people’s homes burned to the ground. It’s almost surreal.”

10 p.m. -midnight: Media staging area near Coronado High School moves because it’s in evacuation area. Southbound I-25 reopens, but exits onto westbound roads in evacuation areas blocked. Portion of Holland Park added to mandatory evacuations, making most of area north of Fillmore and west of I-25 a ghost town. Stats: 6,200 acres, 5 percent contained, 20,085 residences and 160 commercial structures threatened, more than 750 firefighters.



‘Entire blocks gone’

12 a.m.-6 a.m. Colorado Springs Utilities reports facilities not burned, city’s water supply safe to drink. Sheriff Maketa says fire “very active” west of Centennial from Flying W Ranch to just past Vindicator, but security is tight in evacuated areas. All Colorado Springs hotels and possibly all in Denver booked. North-northwest wind pushes fire closer to homes, according to radio traffic. Red Flag warning continues. Reports of homes losses over scanners. Mountain Metropolitan Transit fixed route and FREX service no longer operating regularly.

Forecast: 97 degrees in Colorado Springs, possibility of dry thunderstorms with gusty winds.

6 a.m.-8 a.m. Woodman Valley Chapel campus under mandatory evacuation with offices closed and all events canceled.

8 a.m.-9 a.m. Pre-evacuation notice for Douglas County from South County Line Road to Noe Road, and Spruce Mountain Road to Rampart Range Road. Douglas County Fairgrounds open to evacuees and large animals.

Springs Fire Chief Brown says he doesn’t know how many homes were lost. Fire at 15,324 acres, another 200 firefighters  brought in Tuesday night; no reports of injuries or people missing, 5 percent containment. El Paso County Public Health warns of unhealthy air quality. Memorial Health System reports treating 20 patients for respiratory illnesses in 24 hours.

An official tells The Gazette more than 100 homes destroyed.

9 a.m.-11 a.m.: Julie Penrose Fountain, Uncle Wilbur Fountain, Deerfield Hills Community Center Sprayground, Young Starz Camp and Park and Rec Cheerleading Camp close and Parks and Recreation sport programs canceled. National Weather Service issues flash flood warning for El Paso and Teller counties in burned areas due to lack of vegetation. Three Colorado Springs School District 11 summer food sites close. Greater Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC State of the City luncheon postponed.

11 a.m.-noon: D-11 reports Chipeta and Trailblazer elementary school standing despite smoke damage.

Noon-1 p.m.: AFA superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould says, “We’re facing a potentially devastating disaster right here,” with flames 10 acres onto academy grounds and a quarter mile from structures.

Evacuation calls to West Colorado Avenue at 31st Street. Pre-evacuation notices issued to parts of Monument west of I-25 and south of County Line Road, Holland Park and Pleasant Valley. Crystola on both sides of El Paso and Teller County remains under mandatory evacuation. 

“We evacuated 26,000 people yesterday with no accidents,” Mayor Bach said at a City Council meeting. Status of those in Mountain Shadows who refused to evacuate unknown. Bach reports Flying W Ranch is “scorched.”

Teller County and the City of Woodland Park issue mandatory evacuations for areas east of Highway 24 from Crystola to Baldwin Street/Rampart Range Road to the Teller County Border at Loy Creek; north of a line from Crystola to Catamount estates off  CR 281; and area west of Highway 24 and south of Aspen Garden Way including Ranch Estates and Holiday Hills.

1-3 p.m.: Fort Carson provides equipment and 18 soldiers. President Obama to survey damage and thank responders on Friday. Firefighters ask for help as Blodgett Peak burns. “As of right now I cannot hold this hill,” a firefighter says over the scanner.

Three C-130s drop 27,000 gallons of retardant.

High demand for information leads to crashing 2:30-2:45 p.m. Officials say no reports of break-ins, a tight watch kept on evacuated houses.

Pre-evacuation issued for the remainder of Woodland Park and all areas east of CR 25 to Blossom Road.

Residents of AFA’s Douglass Valley housing area allowed home 3:30-5:30 p.m. to retrieve items. El Paso County Citizens Service Center closes and relocates many services.

3-5 p.m.: FBI joins investigation. Black Hills Energy-Colorado cuts gas to Crystola as precaution.

El Paso County election officials arrange to get necessary items from evacuated Citizens Service Center to complete processing of ballots from Tuesday’s election.

Briefing update: city assessing home losses; embers causing spot fires; weather conditions improved with cloud cover and higher humidity, but winds remain an issue. Incident commander Harvey says fire is unique. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve never seen a (fire) progression map look like that.”

Vandenberg Hot Shots ordered into fight.

5-7 p.m.:Local officials describe destruction as war zone. “Entire blocks — gone,” said El Paso County Commissioner Chairwoman Amy Lathen. Incident report: 15,517 acres, 20,085 residences and 160 commercial structures threatened, 32,000 evacuated. Firefighters told in briefings that 200-300 homes lost. 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, scheduled for Sunday, July 8, postponed. Pikes Peak Arts Fest is canceled.

7-9 p.m.: El Paso County sets up temporary locations to provide food assistance services. Care and Share opens pantries to evacuees.

9 p.m.-midnight: Incident report: 18,500 acres, $3.2 million cost,1,008 personnel on scene, with firefighters from as far as Iowa, 68 fire engines, six helicopters, three bulldozers, three water tenders. More than 400 evacuees at shelters.

Fort Carson engineers working on fire breaks along U.S. 24 shifted resources to AFA. The Army committed 121 troops. along 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.

AFA moves some cadets off campus and suspends airmanship programs.



Human remains found in ruins

12-6 a.m.: Scanner traffic indicates a few hot spots around Blodgett Peak, embers flying throughout northwest Colorado Springs.

6-9 a.m.: Morning briefing: Mayor Bach announces “hundreds of homes have been destroyed” but provided no specifics. Incident commander Harvey says fire growth slowed and Thursday weather forecast is best so far. Firefighters will continue line construction on south perimeter, structure protection and burn-backs. Homeowners work to discover fate of homes through published aerial photos, satellite photos, social media and official contacts.

9-11 a.m. Colorado Springs officials make plans to tell residents about losses. Businesses in Woodland Park shut down after evacuated residents leave the area. Standing room only at Woodland Park community meeting.

Noon-3 p.m.: Flying W Ranch reports no cattle lost; animals rounded up and taken to Norris Penrose Equestrian Center. Colorado Army National Guard brings in Black Hawk helicopter that can draw up to 500 gallons of water. A brief thunderstorm on the south side of Pikes Peak raises concerns about wind, but also pushes in cooler air and higher humidity.

Stage 2 restrictions ordered throughout Pikes and San Isabel national forests, meaning no open fires.

3-6 p.m.: Colorado Springs officials announce 346 homes destroyed in Mountain Shadows and Flying W Ranch subdivisions. Private evening meetings with residents of 34 streets set. Colorado Springs Deputy Fire Chief Tommy Smith says a small number of people unaccounted for.

6-8 p.m.: Mandatory evacuations lifted as of 8 p.m. for Kissing Camels, Holland Park, the southern portion of Rockrimmon, Pine Cliff, Pleasant Valley and an apartment complex at Garden of the Gods Road and 30th Street. Garden of the Gods Road will reopen to 30th Street.

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office clarifies that cause of fire is unknown following ABC News report that took a hypothetical remark and suggested that the fire was an act of domestic terrorism.

Stats: 16,750 acres (slight decrease from estimates), 15 percent containment, 1,118 personnel. Officials say significant progress made.

8 p.m.-10 p.m.: Residents of 34 streets where some homes were lost solemnly file into meetings to learn the extent of destruction. Other residents rush to await removal of roadblocks into neighborhoods where evacuations were lifted.

10:40 p.m.: Springs Police Chief Pete Carey announces the remains of one person found in the ruins of a house at 2910 Rossmere Street in Mountain Shadows. A second person from that address remains unaccounted for.



President surveys damage

12 a.m.-6 a.m.: Evacuations at the academy lifted as of 5 a.m., and operations normal. Forecast for slightly cooler temperatures, calmer winds and a chance of showers buoys firefighters. Little activity on the fire overnight, although gusts tested lines in lower Queens Canyon.

6 a.m.-9 a.m.: Morning briefing: containment up to 15 percent, with no perimeter growth overnight; one trouble spot above Cave of the Winds; more aircraft to join firefighting in Colorado; cause remains unknown as investigators don’t have access to origination point.

El Paso County officials announced opening Saturday of Disaster Recovery Center at the Department of Human Services, 105 N. Spruce St.

9 a.m.-noon: Pre-evacuation warnings for Douglas County canceled; Commerce Center Drive from East Woodmen to Pine Creek Drive reopens. Normal mail delivery resumes in areas where evacuations lifted.

Human Society of the Pikes Peak Region granted permission to rescue pets left behind in some evacuated areas — more than 70 rescued since Wednesday night.

Firefighters planned a backburn of an interior island of unburned fuel and warned that residents would see smoke.

Noon-3 p.m.: President Obama arrives at Peterson Air Force Base to tour devastated neighborhoods and meet with firefighters and evacuees. He spoke with firefighters working in Mountain Shadows and made remarks at the Colorado Springs Fire Department camp at Fire Station No. 9 on Garden of the Gods Road. 

“We can provide all of the resources, but what we can’t do is supply them with the courage ... The folks involved in this are genuine heroes. I hope you’re reminded by how important our fire departments and our forest services are,” Obama said.

The president’s last stop was at evacuee center at Southeast YMCA.

Police confirm numerous vehicle break-ins outside hotels housing evacuees.

3-6 p.m.: Chief Carey says the remains of a second person have been found at the Rossmere Street house, bringing the fire’s death toll to two.

Mayor’s office announces it will take displaced residents on bus tours into their neighborhoods beginning Sunday.

Afternoon briefing: Containment increases to 25 percent; no increase in fire size; firefighting cost at $6.2 million; Forest Service has brought in a “cause and origin specialist” but no access yet to start point; utilities remain off in many neighborhoods.

Neighborhood bus tour information is released to residents. UCCS to provide housing for up to 100 wildland firefighters completing shifts beginning Friday night.

6-9 p.m.: Mandatory evacuations lifted for Cedar Heights beginning at 9 p.m. and at 8 p.m. for: Glen Eyrie, streets east of 30th Street and north of Garden of the Gods Road, streets east of Centennial Boulevard with a couple of exceptions, south Rockrimmon, north Rockrimmon, unincorporated Woodmen Valley.

Several residents returning to Pinon Valley found homes looted and ransacked.

Town of Monument postpones July 4th parade and street fair.

9 p.m.-12 a.m.: Occasional scanner traffic about hot spots.



A shift toward recovery

8-10 a.m.: Beginning Saturday night, Colorado National Guard will patrol affected areas so police can return to other parts of the city. About 10,000 residents remain evacuated. Colorado Springs Utilities began restoration efforts. Disaster Recovery Center opens at 9 a.m.

Morning fire briefing: Containment at 30 percent; firefighters brace for return of hotter weather; 1,300 firefighters on scene; burnoff of interior island continues.

Safeway store at Rockrimmon and Village Center Boulevard reopened after being closed four days.

10 a.m.-noon: Colorado Springs police confirm 22 burglaries or attempted burglaries in evacuated zones. One arrest made. Community continues to pitch in with fundraisers, giveaways and other assistance.

Noon-4 p.m.: Firefighters start burnoff near Blodgett Peak trailhead.

City announces evacuated residents of affected areas can visit homes in their own vehicles beginning Sunday. Schedules and details posted at

4 p.m.-6 p.m.: Chief Carey says all missing persons have been accounted for. Containment at 45 percent. Firefighting cost at $8.8 million.

Mandatory evacuations in Teller County lifted; Highway 24 remains closed for firefighting efforts. Green Mountain Falls and Crystola remain on mandatory evacuation. El Paso County says more than 400 people served in first day of Disaster Recovery Center.

The July 16 estimate for full containment could move up.

Compiled by Barbara Cotter, Lauren Fellers and Sue McMillin

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