The Colorado Springs Airport was to reopen at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, less than 30 hours after a three-alarm fire burned part of the roof, grounded overnight flights and shutdown operations, airport spokeswoman Aidan Ryan said.
Service for some airlines will be limited as construction continues, she warned, but otherwise the airport will be “completely functional.” She urged fliers to continue to check in with their airlines for updated flight statuses.
“We went through a lot, but we are here and open for business,” Ryan said.
The cause and origin of the fire remain under investigation, but Colorado Springs Fire Chief Ted Collas said it appears to have started just before 11 p.m. Monday on the roof of the west side of the airport, and was fueled by nearby propane tanks.
Responding fire crews reported seeing shooting flames from several miles off.
Most of the damage was confined to the roof of the second floor, above the United Airlines ticketing area, and the third-floor administration offices, Collas said, but water also had leaked down to the first level. Construction crews were hauling in industrial-size fans by the truckload.
Security and concourse areas were not damaged.
“Had it not been for the automatic sprinkler system, much of this building could have been lost to fire,” Collas said.
By Tuesday afternoon, much of the west side of the airport was littered with fractured ceiling tiles and with wires hanging from bare ceilings, but Ryan said the airport had received a “letter of approval” to reopen from its structural engineer. Collas supported reopening, saying he was “confident” the fire was not caused by an operational issue.
Part of the building on the west side will remain closed off and United operations will be temporarily moved, Ryan said.
Any disruption at the airport is a “huge hit for a local, municipal airport...both financially and for our travel schedule,” Ryan said. All 56 inbound and outbound flights on Tuesday were canceled, though the Colorado Springs Airfield and military operations remained open.
Mayor John Suthers said he doesn’t expect Monday’s fire to disrupt the momentum the airport has been building in recent years, expanding services to offer 13 nonstop flights on five airlines.
Air passenger traffic at the airport was up 29 percent in 2017, and 17 percent as of February 2018, Suthers said.
“We are going to sustain that momentum,” he said.
In the meantime, the shutdown remains an inconvenience for travelers.
While fire crews battled the flames for four hours, inbound passengers found themselves trapped on their planes. “We ended up sitting on the tarmac for about three hours,” Maddison Russell, a passenger on one of two halted planes, told Gazette news partner KKTV.
Luggage from the two planes was delayed in being returned to the evacuated passengers Tuesday. Ryan said as soon as the airport could find a safe area to unload the baggage, the owners would be contacted.
Those who were on the American flight that was stuck on the tarmac that need to coordinate luggage pickup/delivery are asked to call 572-2406.
Those still needing to reschedule a flight can call the following numbers: