Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

VIDEO & AUDIO: First calls on Black Forest fire reveal fast-growing plume of smoke

JESSE PAUL jesse.paul@gazette.com - Updated: August 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm

The first people to call 911 to inform authorities of the blaze that would become the Black Forest fire reported seeing thick, billowing black smoke in the area of Highway 83 and Shoup Road, according to audio recording of those calls released Monday by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

One caller told a dispatcher the fire was roughly 300 yards from his home.

The Black Forest fire began on June 11 and burned more than 14,000 acres, destroyed 488 homes and killed two people.

The first call came in at 1:42 p.m. on June 11 as an Air Force Academy airman told a county dispatcher that he was informed by the academy's air traffic control tower that staff saw smoke coming from the east.

"There is quite a bit of smoke coming from the east near the New Life Church, right around that area," he said.

Two minutes later, a man called from what he estimated was a half-mile from the fire on Shoup Road.

"I just came around the corner and saw smoke," he said.

Calls after that were more ominous as reporting parties began to describe the growing inferno as out of control and fast-moving. Another man who called at 1:44 p.m. was clearly concerned with the "large amount of smoke" before him.

"It changes from black to white," he said. "It gives out puffs of white smoke and then all the sudden black smoke. Whatever it is, it's burning fast."

The last call released by the Sherrif's Office, made at 1:45 p.m., came from a man in Cathedral Pines near Milam Road. A dispatcher asked him if there were any structures in the area.

"This is a residential community where there's a 3.5 acre lot," he said. "I can't tell. It's about 300 yards from my home."

Below are the transcripts of those calls:

The names, telephone numbers and addresses provided by callers were redacted by the Sheriff's Office.

1:42 p.m.

DISPATCHER: El Paso County Sheriff's Office, this is Dawn. (pause) Hello?

CALLER: Oh, hello. Sorry. We just got a call from our control tower here - air traffic control - that there is quite a bit of smoke coming from the east near the New Life Church, right around that area. So, I don't know.

DISPATCHER: OK, hold on just a second for me. OK?

1:44 p.m.

DISPATCHER: El Paso County 911, what's the address of the emergency?

CALLER: I'm unsure of the address, but it's on Shoup Road, though, or approximately on Shoup Road. I can see smoke billowing from the trees. I'm probably a half mile away. I just came around the corner and saw the smoke.

DISPATCHER: Do you know what the closest cross street is?

CALLER: I'm gonna' say it's east of Oak Cliff Drive and Shoup Drive.

1:44 p.m.

DISPATCHER: El Paso County 911, what's the address of your emergency?

CALLER: I'm not sure what the address is. I'm looking at smoke. It looks like a large fire at the area of Shoup and Highway 83, maybe a little east of that.

DISPATCHER: It looks like it's in the area of Shoup and 83?

CALLER: Yes, maybe a little east of Shoup and 83.

DISPATCHER: OK. Can you see smoke and flames?

CALLER: I cannot see flames. I see very large smoke and it's changing colors between black and white. It's really pretty good amount of smoke.

DISPATCHER: OK. Hold on for me one second. Do not hang up.

(long pause, dispatcher takes another call)

DISPATCHER: OK sir, I'm sorry about that. I had to take another call that was coming in on that. Are you still seeing the smoke?

CALLER: Yes, I am. It's a very large amount of smoke.

DISPATCHER: OK.

CALLER: It keeps changing colors so I am guessing things are burning very fast.

DISPATCHER: OK. So far we have that there were no flames seen and it is changing from black to white?

CALLER: It changes from black to white. It gives out puffs of white smoke and then all the sudden black smoke. Whatever it is, it's burning fast.

DISPATCHER: OK, what is the number that you are calling from?

CALLER: (number redacted) It's very noticeable smoke. I'm sure they'll notice it driving down Highway 83.

1:44 p.m.

DISPATCHER: El Paso County 911, what's the address of the emergency?

CALLER: Uh, it's Black Forest (inaudible)

DISPATCHER: OK, ma'am I'm having a hard time hearing you. Your volume is a little low. What's the address?

CALLER: Um, it's the fire in Black Forest. I'm sure it's probably been called in.

DISPATCHER: OK, what's the address where you are calling from?

(short pause, holding music)

DISPATCHER: OK, ma'am I'm sorry I had to check on another call. (address redacted) Are you calling because you see flames or smoke?

CALLER: Smoke (number redacted)

DISPATCHER: What color is the smoke?

CALLER: It's now white.

DISPATCHER: Can you tell what direction it's coming from?

CALLER: Um, the smoke is blowing to (inaudible).

DISPATCHER: So it's coming from northwest of your address? Any indication of how far away it is?

CALLER: I would say maybe a mile.

DISPATCHER: OK. We do have the fire department notified and we will get them in the area, OK?

CALLER: Thank you.

1:45 p.m.

DISPATCHER: El Paso County 911, what's the address of your emergency?

CALLER: Uh, it's in Cathedral Pines, uh, on Milam Road. It looks like there's a fire.

DISPATCHER: Is that in the area of Highway 83 and Shoup?

CALLER: Uh, yes.

DISPATCHER: OK, hold on. I'm going to get some information from you, OK? (long pause) OK, we do have multiple calls coming in from that location. What color smoke do you see?

CALLER: Black smoke.

DISPATCHER: Do you know if there are any structures in the area?

CALLER: Uh, this is a residential community where there's a 3.5 acre lot. I can't tell. It's about 300 yards from my home.

-

Contact Jesse Paul at 636-0253. Twitter: @JesseAPaul

Comment Policy

Our commenting system has changed. Please register or login with your gazette.com account to comment on a story. Click here for information.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
AUG
29
AUG
30
AUG
31
SEP
1
SEP
2
SEP
3
SEP
4
SEP
5
SEP
6
SEP
7
SEP
8
SEP
9
SEP
10
SEP
11
Advertisement