Report: Clear communication lacking during Waldo fire

February 15, 2013
photo - A passerby photographs the Waldo Canyon fire from Centennial Boulevard on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette Photo by
A passerby photographs the Waldo Canyon fire from Centennial Boulevard on Tuesday, June 26, 2012. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette Photo by  

In its after-action report on the Waldo Canyon fire, the city of Woodland Park highlighted a familiar pitfall: the need to improve communications among officials.

The report, released Feb. 7, offers a 19-day breakdown of the fire, followed by assessments of the city’s and Teller County’s work with communications, planning and emergency preparedness, among other topics. Chief among the suggested improvements was making more information available to residents, whether by improving the quality of evacuation maps or providing residents with glossaries of terminology, “so that staff and citizens are ‘speaking the same language,’ ” the report read.

The Waldo Canyon fire burned within 1.5 miles of Woodland Park city limits and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents. It also shut down U.S. 24 for days, shutting off eastern access to the town.

City officials will discuss the after-action report at a community meeting at
6 p.m. Thursday at the Woodland Park city hall.

Like its counterparts in Colorado Springs, the city recommends that all residents continue to or start to rid their properties of plants that could fuel a fire toward their homes.

Although many Teller County residents started such mitigation efforts after the 2002 Hayman fire, more work removing dry scrub oak and pine trees couldn’t hurt, the report said.

In response to the growing need, Woodland Park resident Scott Lord helped found the Woodland Park Friends of the Forest Edge group last year to promote mitigation. It will kick off its meetings this month.

Lord, who was evacuated during the fire and read the after-action report, particularly liked the city’s decision to live stream its briefings in the future.

“As citizens, even when we were evacuated, we couldn’t see the briefings,” he said. “So now they can stream that stuff live. As a citizen, it really allows me to stay connected and know what’s going on.”

In other Waldo Canyon fire recovery news:

• El Paso County launched its disaster recovery page in mid-January, featuring links to flood mitigation and fire recovery tools for residents. Those affected by the Waldo Canyon fire can fill out a survey from the nonprofit insurance advocacy group United Policy Holders. The confidential survey is designed to gather information about the insurance and fire recovery process. Larimer County residents who were affected by the High Park fire completed a similar survey. Link to the disaster recovery page and survey:

• Colorado Springs Together, a nonprofit fire recovery organization, is putting together a team of volunteers to work on landscape rehabilitation in Mountain Shadows. Residents who are interested in volunteering and helping with landscaping, watering and information in the neighborhood will need to fill out an application. Link to application:

• The Woodland Park Friends of Forest Edge community organization, which promotes fire mitigation in Teller County, will hold its first meeting Tuesday for residents interested in learning about fire mitigation techniques. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at Mountain View United Methodist Church, 1101 Rampart Range Road, in Woodland Park.

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