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A Waldo Canyon fire interactive timeline

June 21, 2013 Updated: June 23, 2013 at 6:44 am

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Waldo Canyon fire retrospective

The Waldo Canyon fire exploded in June 2012 to the west of Colorado Springs, expanding rapidly in every direction and causing thousands of residents to flee. On June 26, 2012, the fire swept down into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood in a firestorm of falling embers. By the time the fire was contained it had burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed 347 homes and killed two people.

Click “next” to see the day-by-day progression of the fire narrated by Gazette reporter Ryan Maye Handy. After each day's summary, click next to go to the next day.

June 22, 2012

El Paso County and U.S. Forest Service crews investigate the Pyramid Mountain fire, which will become the Waldo Canyon fire.

7:49 p.m.

El Paso County dispatch receives first call from a Crystal Park Road resident reporting white smoke coming from the Cave of the Winds area, near Waldo Canyon. Cascade, Manitou Springs and Forest Service fire crews hike in to look for source of the smoke.

10:22 p.m.

After searching for nearly three hours, crews lose sight of smoke, and command of the Pyramid Mountain fire is handed to the Forest Service, which plans to return the next day. Until then, all crews are cleared.

June 23, 2012

Forest Service crews search for Pyramid Mountain fire, which explodes just after noon.

The trees on a ridge above Cedar Heights go up in flames on Sunday afternoon, June 24, 2012. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

7:01 a.m.

Manitou Springs Fire Department and Forest Service fire crews return to the Waldo Canyon area. They hike in from two points — Longs Ranch Road, just southwest of the Waldo Canyon trailhead, and Pyramid Mountain Road, northwest of the trailhead.

7:30 a.m.

An unidentified runner on the Waldo Canyon Trail calls the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office to report a smoldering fire on a northwestern dogleg off the trail.

11:39 a.m.

Crews searching for a source of Pyramid Mountain smoke find nothing and declare the incident a false alarm, but keep it open in case smoke should become visible again.

Around noon

The Waldo Canyon fire erupts in a large plume that casts a shadow over western Colorado Springs. An hour later, Cedar Heights is evacuated along with Garden of the Gods. That evening, mandatory evacuations are issued in Cascade, raising the total of evacuees to 1,240 people.

June 24, 2012

El Paso County declares the fire a disaster. In the day’s first minutes, Manitou Springs is evacuated, and firefighters battle spot fires in Cedar Heights through the night. A Type 1 Incident Management Team is ordered to the fire, upgrading the growing blaze to the highest emergency priority. Manitou Springs residents return to their homes in the evening, as the fire grows in the opposite direction. The Colorado Department of Transportation closes U.S. 24 from 31st Street in Colorado Springs to the Crystola area.

A helicopter drops a load of water just above Cedar Heights. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

June 25, 2012

Dining tents next to a Shamrock foods trailer in the fire camp at Holmes Middle School (Ryan Maye Handy/The Gazette)

6 a.m.

Rich Harvey and his Great Basin Incident Management Team take command at 6 a.m. The fire spreads to 3,446 acres and about 6,000 residents remain evacuated. The day is hot and dry, and fire crews report the fire is roaring through dry Gambel oak and pine trees on steep terrain.


In the evening, the city of Colorado Springs enacts a total burn ban; the fire grows to 4,500 acres, and spot fires in the hills can be seen from town.

June 26, 2012

A red flag warning is issued for Colorado Springs, due to record-high temperatures and winds. Evacuated Mountain Shadows residents are allowed back into their neighborhoods briefly, only to be chased out again as the fire spreads.

The Waldo Canyon fire destroys houses in Mountain Shadows on Wednesday, June 26, 2012. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

1:40 p.m.

The remainder of Mountain Shadows is put on pre-evacuation status, and fire scouts placed on the western hillsides notice the fire moving toward Cedar Heights and Queens Canyon.

Around 4 p.m.

Around 4 p.m., the pyrocumulus cloud above the fire collapses beneath a thunderstorm, pushing embers into Mountain Shadows. About 20 minutes into a 4 p.m. news conference, Mayor Steve Bach issues a mandatory evacuation for the rest of the neighborhood and Peregrine.

Around 5 p.m.

An hour later, the first homes in Mountain Shadows burn and ash blows across the city. Later, the city announces that 347 homes burned in Mountain Shadows. The total number of evacuees reaches 32,000, and nearly all the hotels in Colorado Springs and Denver are booked.

6:40 p.m.

Portions of Air Force Academy housing are under mandatory evacuation; more are ordered through the evening.

9:30 p.m.

Gov. John Hickenlooper arrives at incident command center at Coronado High School.

June 27, 2012

First reports of the damage in Mountain Shadows trickle in — the fire more than tripled in size June 26, growing to 15,324 acres, and firefighters report that entire blocks of homes burned. Officials won’t release an estimated number of destroyed homes, and they report that 10 people are missing. Teller County towns along U.S. 24, including Crystola, are evacuated.

Homes in Mountain Shadows burn as the Waldo Canyon fire exploded down the foothills of Colorado Springs on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

Around noon

Around noon, Air Force Academy announces fire has burned about 10 acres of its grounds but remains a quarter mile away from southernmost housing area. Pre-evacuation orders issued for some areas of Monument west of Interstate 25.

3 p.m.

El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office arranges escort to evacuated Citizens Service Center on Garden of the Gods Road to retrieve necessary items to finish counting ballots from Tuesday’s Primary Election.

Around 5 p.m.

An hour later, the first homes in Mountain Shadows burn and ash blows across the city. Later, the city announces that 347 homes burned in Mountain Shadows. The total number of evacuees reaches 32,000, and nearly all the hotels in Colorado Springs and Denver are booked.

6:40 p.m.

Portions of Air Force Academy housing are under mandatory evacuation; more are ordered through the evening.

June 28, 2012

The city hosts a meeting at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs for all Mountain Shadows residents where officials give them lists of damaged and destroyed homes. Colorado Springs police announce that human remains were found in one of the destroyed homes.

The road entering the Forest Edge subdivision on the east side of Rampart Range Road in Woodland Park was closed Thursday. The subdivision was part of a mandatory evacuation order from town officials on Wednesday. (Matt Steiner/The Gazette)

June 29, 2012

President Barack Obama tours damaged neighborhoods of Mountain Shadows. Temperatures cool, but the fire is only 15 percent contained. That night, the mandatory evacuation of Cedar Heights is lifted. Other west-side neighborhoods are re-opened to residents.

President Obama greeted Colorado Springs residents during his visit Friday to survey the damage in Mountain Shadows from the Waldo Canyon Fire. (Mark Reis/The Gazette)

June 30, 2012

Colorado National Guard patrols evacuate neighborhoods, and police confirm there have been 22 home burglaries. Around 10,000 people remain evacuated. Police confirm that all missing people have been accounted for, including two who died in the fire. Mandatory evacuations for Teller County and Woodland Park are lifted.

Jerri Marr, forest supervisor for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, speaks during the morning press briefing Saturday, June 30, 2012, at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus. (Christian Murdock/The Gazette)

July 1, 2012

Mountain Shadows is re-opened to residents, who tour the burned neighborhoods. Some bring their insurance agents with them. Mandatory evacuations are lifted for Green Mountain Falls, Cascade and Crystola. U.S. 24 reopens. Remaining evacuation orders for Colorado Springs are lifted, except for the burned areas in Mountain Shadows.

A slurry bomber drops fire retardant on a blaze near Colorado Springs, Colo., Saturday, June 23, 2012. The fire started Saturday and has grown to an estimated 600 acres. (Mark Reis/The Gazette)

July 2, 2012

Burned Area Emergency Response team is ordered to do landscape restoration and flood prevention over the burn scar. Over the next couple of days, a transfer of command from the Type 1 team to another team is considered.

July 5, 2012

Colorado Springs police identify the couple who perished in the Waldo Canyon fire: William Everett, 74, and his wife, Barbara Everett, 73, died in their home at 2910 Rossmere St. A memorial in their memory is later planned for Mountain Shadows park.

The remains of the Everett's home at 2910 Rossmere Street. (Ryan Maye Handy/The Gazette)

July 7, 2012

The Great Basin Incident Management Team officially hands the Waldo Canyon fire to a Type 3 Incident Management Team, led by Troy Nelson. The fire is 90 percent contained as the Type 1 crews pull out of Colorado Springs.

A five engine strike team from the Tahoe National Forest in California was one of the Type I strike teams fighting the Tuesday night firestorm of the Waldo Canyon fire. In the background, the charred mountainside above Mountain Shadows can be seen. They met at the Loaf 'n Jug at the end of Garden of the Gods Rd. on that night. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

July 10, 2012

The Waldo Canyon fire, declared the most destructive in state history, is declared contained. It burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 347 homes, and killed two people. Colorado Springs Together, a recovery nonprofit group, is launched, and will help organize debris cleanup in Mountain Shadows.

Brad Rust, a soil scientist with the U.S. Forest Service, takes a sample in a burned area near Pyramid Road in Cascade on Tuesday, July 10, 2012. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

July 11, 2012

Pikes Peak Regional Building Department issues first wrecking permit in Mountain Shadows, at 2615 Trevor Lane.

The view from the bluff at Pine Cliffs on Sunday, July 1, 2012. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)

July 30, 2012

The first major flash flood from the Waldo Canyon burn scar pushes mud and debris onto U.S. 24, shutting the road down for hours while crews clean it up. A fast-moving storm dumped 2 inches of rain over the burn scar.

July 31, 2012

The Colorado Springs Fire Department and the Housing and Building Association draft fire code changes, and ask that builders in Mountain Shadows pledge to follow them until they are written into law. The changes include prohibiting wood decks and wood siding on homes. Homeowners cannot obtain a permit to rebuild unless they have signed a letter pledging that their builder will adhere to the yet-to-be adopted fire codes.

Aug. 25, 2012

The Burned Area Emergency Response team begins dropping shredded wood and spreading straw over the burn scar. The mulch is designed to prevent damage from flood erosion. The $4.8 million project drops mulch on more than 3,000 acres over 30 days.

Sept. 13, 2012

The Colorado Springs Police Department announces that the Waldo Canyon fire was human caused, but investigators do not say what started the state’s most destructive burn, nor do they say if the fire was accidentally or purposefully lit. The fire started three miles from the Waldo Canyon trailhead, said police Lt. Adrian Vasquez.

Oct. 23, 2012

The city of Colorado Springs releases its Initial After Action Report, which summarizes the main strengths and weaknesses of the city’s response to the fire.

Nov. 1, 2012

Joseph Boyd and his wife, Patricia Nelson-Boyd, are the first people to move back into Mountain Shadows. Their home, at 2270 Yankton Place, is the first to be rebuilt.

This home on Yankton Place is the first of the rebuilt homes to be finished in Mountain Shadows. Joseph Boyd and Patricia Nelson-Boyd began moving into the home on Thursday. (Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette)

Dec. 12, 2012

The Colorado Springs City Council approves new fire codes, which builders and homeowners have been voluntarily following since late July. The codes apply to all new homes and rebuilds in hillside areas adjacent to forest lands, and ban wood siding and decks, as well as require other changes meant to prevent hot embers from getting inside a house.

Jan. 5, 2013

The Waldo Canyon Victims Association, which will become the association of Catastrophic Insurance Complaints in Colorado, has its first official meeting and drafts a letter to Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach asking for assistance with insurance claims and deadlines. The group continues to meet regularly, and promotes new state legislation to lengthen the time frame for suing insurance companies.

Feb. 25, 2012

Bob Cutter, president of the recovery nonprofit Colorado Springs Together, announces at a City Council meeting that the organization will close most of its operations in July, when its lease on a Centennial Boulevard building is up.

March 21, 2013

The U.S. House approves the U.S. Senate’s budget plan, which includes several million dollars of Emergency Watershed Protection funds that could go to Colorado. Local and state politicians fought for months to get the money to rehabilitate watersheds damaged by the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires.

April 3, 2013

The city of Colorado Springs releases its final after action report. The report praised the cooperation and efforts of all city employees, and highlighted some weaknesses in the fire response, including the lack of a long-term staffing plan and large-scale plans for integrating multiple agencies during a disaster.

April 19, 2013

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office releases its after action report. The report discusses the failure of a dispatcher to record the name and location of a witness who saw the fire early on June 24, and Sheriff Terry Maketa addresses this in one of the lessons learned from the fire.

April 23, 2013

The Natural Resources Conservation Service awards Colorado $19.6 million of Emergency Watershed Protection funds.

May 10, 2013

Gov. John Hickenlooper signs into law the Homeowners Insurance Reform Bill, HB 1225. The bill enacts the Homeowner’s Insurance Reform Act of 2013, and is designed to help those with total losses navigate the insurance process. For wildfire victims in particular, it will cover additional living expenses for up to two years, and lengthens the period of time that homeowners have to sue their insurance companies. Several Waldo Canyon fire victims attended the bill signing, and lobbied for the bill over several months.

May 28, 2013

Colorado Springs Together announces that half of the homes destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire are on track to be rebuilt. The recovery nonprofit announces that 176 permits for building have been issued by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

June 10, 2013

The Department of Agriculture releases $66.8 million in Emergency Watershed Protection funds to 15 states, with the largest share, $19.8 million, going to Colorado. El Paso County will get $8.8 million to restore burn areas.

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