Published: June 15, 2013
Tuesday, June 11 http://bit.ly/11uvsUv
1-2 p.m. Fire starts. County receives first calls of a fire near Shoup Road and Highway 83. Responders: City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Black Forest fire departments.
2-3 p.m. Colorado Springs area reaches 97 degrees Fahrenheit, the record high temperature since 1956. Relative humidity dips to 2 percent and a perfect storm comes as wind speeds get up to 37 mph, with gusts at 47. Traffic signs over I-25 read, "Fire at Black Forest - Do Not Report." El Paso County Sheriff Maketa announces the fire on social media and refers residents to local media and #BlackForestFire for information.
3-4 p.m. Black Forest residents begin leaving their homes. First mandatory evacuation covers about six square miles from Tahosa Lane east to Holmes Road and Shoup Road up to Fox Chase Way. Commander at the scene asks for more resources. CSFD dispatches seven fire engines, Douglas County heads out to help. Command post is established at Shoup Road and Highway 83. Radio says first home burns on Peregrine Way. Strong winds blow east.
5:30-6:30 p.m. Evacuation boundary extended two miles north to Hogden Road and three miles east to Vollmer Road. Fort Carson prepares two CH-47 helicopters for airdrop support. Joint Information Center activated. Fire moves northeast, crosses Black Forest Road. Firefighters try to make a stand on Herring Road, one mile east, but the fire crosses at 6:17 p.m. Electrical and gas services are cut. Red Cross opens shelters at New Life Church and Palmer Ridge High School. Reporter Ryan Handy sees one evacuee yell out his truck window, "Where are the helicopters?"
6:30-7 p.m. Firefighters report 300-foot flame lengths, fire picking up speed. It jumped one more mile east across Vollmer Road. Evacuees tell reporters they saw houses burning as they fled. Fire is about four miles wide. Fifteen strike teams requested. Sheriff Maketa says conditions are "very similar" to Waldo Canyon fire with evacuation area bumped up to about 40 square miles. State resources taxed by multiple fires, including 3,000-acre fire at Royal Gorge in adjacent Fremont County. Two CH-47 helicopters arrive. Propane tanks explode like popcorn.
7:30 p.m. 3,600 People and 1,259 homes have been evacuated in the Black Forest area. Military moves with unprecedented speed with Army dropping water from helicopters and local Air Force bases providing equipment and firefighters. Sheriff Maketa says cause unknown. Reporter Ryan Handy says fire is not contained, "at all."
8-9 p.m. Crews go back to Vollmer Road for "structure extinguishment." Firefighters say many houses are lost, with no exact count. One crew moves away from the fire toward Meridian Road, three miles east of Vollmer: "They have civilians with them that they are trying to protect," scanner voice says. Fort Carson opens a shelter for military families at the post's Youth Center.
9-10 p.m. As many as six homes have burned near Peregrine Way, in southwest corner of fire near where it started. Flying W Ranch accepts displaced horses. A third emergency shelter opens to the public at Elbert County Fairgrounds in Kiowa. Verbal agreement made for two Peterson Air Force Base C-130 airplanes, which are equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems. Six helicopters, one air tanker and 36 fire engines are sent into Black Forest by this point along with 155 firefighters and 130 police and deputies.
10:30-11:30 p.m. More than 7,500 acres have burned and fire is zero percent contained. Evacuated area now covers about 55 square miles. That's more than 35,000 acres, 5,469 people and 1,966 homes. More than 60 homes have burned. No injuries. Moving east, fire jumps Meridian Road and next line of defense is Eastonville Road - on the other side of two-mile-wide grassland. Air Force says it is preparing planes and flight crews to enter battle first thing Wednesday. One good sign: Highway 83 on western edge of fire has reopened. Evacuation expands south nearly two miles south and southeast corner is concern for responders. CSPD goes on accident alert. Police and deputies remain on-scene to head-off looting that was seen at Waldo Canyon Fire. They threaten to arrest anyone who enters evacuation area. Shelters established at Norris-Penrose Event Center for large animals and Elbert County Fairground for people and large animals. Black Hills Energy reports natural gas has been cut to 2,387 Black Forest customers.
Wednesday, June 12 http://bit.ly/175aFQk
'FAR FROM UNDER CONTROL'
12-1 a.m. Help arrives from Pueblo, Platte Canyon, Elk Creek and Falcon and briefly relieves some on-scene firefighters who get to eat dinner. Firefighters make plans to back-burn in southeast corner of fire. Federal Emergency Management Agency approves Fire Management Assistance for both Black Forest and nearby Royal Gorge fires. Firefighters report that the south side of the fire along Shoup Road is flaring up. Winds at 10-15 mph.
2:30-4 a.m. Military opens second evacuation shelter for military members and families at Peterson Fitness and Sports Center. National Weather Service puts El Paso County under red flag warning for high fire danger from 2-8 p.m. Wednesday. Twenty-two people and 37 pets spend the night at Palmer Ridge High School evacuation site. New Life Church is half-full. Reporter Jakob Rodgers says Red Cross acquired new cots, blankets and other gear after Waldo Canyon that are helping. Fire has burned at least 8,000 acres. Sheriff Terry Maketa tells KOAA TV that he toured the fire and thinks as many as 100 homes may have burned.
4:30 a.m. Firefighters reporting an increase in fire activity on southern border at Burgess Road south of Shoup Road, and it's pushing east. Black Forest fire can be smelled in Colorado Springs. Every few minutes on the radio, firefighters are reporting a new structure fire.
5:30-6 a.m. Sun rises and air assistance arrives in the form of CH-47 helicopters, military planes on their way. There's a slight breeze but nothing like the winds of Tuesday, yet. Humidity in El Paso County is at 9 percent and not expected to increase; 6,500 people have been evacuated from 1,259 homes and the fire has not been contained.
7 a.m. El Paso County Sheriff Sgt. Joe Roybal says Black Forest fire is different from Waldo Canyon fire in that it has several hot spots, jumping from home to home. Fire is big in Black Squirrel Creek Park subdivision and along the southern border. Fourteen evacuees park RVs at Wal-Mart on Woodmen Road.
8-9 a.m. Aerial images show utter destruction in blackened areas of Black Forest. Three UH-60 helicopters from Colorado Army National Guard and Fort Carson arrive. Additionally, a UH-72 Lakota helicopter is providing aerial reconnaissance and is on standby for search and rescue. DC-10 next-generation air tanker makes first appearance. It can carry up to 11,600 gallons of chemical retardant. Firefighters on the ground report have no communication with helicopters that are, "dropping right on top of us." Firefighters ask for resources on scanner that come up negative. Fire crews refuse to leave shift until it can be relieved. Falcon School District 49 closes until further notice. YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region is opening its doors to evacuees and first responders. Colorado Springs' major hospitals, Penrose and Memorial, report zero admittances related to the fire.
9 a.m. Sheriff Terry Makets says at a news conference that at least 80 homes, possibly closer to 100, are burned. "That fire is far from under control," Maketa says. "My worst fear is people took a chance and lost their life." No injuries or deaths to speak of, but people were reentering the fire and some refused to evacuate. There are 155 firefighters and six helicopters currently involved. Fire has covered 47 square miles and left unspent fuel in places. It remains uncontained. The news conference revealed trucks are having to reload water from tankers because of unreliable hydrants.
10-11 a.m. Crews fight intense flames in southeast corner of the fire, on Meridian Road near Ayer Road. Crews work north near Hodgen Road and Meridian Road to protect Sylvan Meadows and Black Forest Reserve subdivisions. The fire heads toward 60 structures there. Another crew doubles back to School in the Woods, which is threatened. Crews await bulldozers to dig trenches through ground fuel for structure protection. State Emergency Operations Center activates.
Noon Pine Cone Ranch is on fire. Differing accounts of fire's direction of movement heard on radios. Witnesses report two plumes. Fire restrictions take effect in Colorado Springs, prohibiting open and recreational burning. El Paso County Health Department urges cautionary note about from breathing smoke. First security checkpoints established. UH-60 helicopters have dropped 30,000 gallons of water since fire began. Goodwill offers clothing vouchers for evacuees.
1-1:30 p.m. Mandatory evacuation increased a mile and a half north to Walker Road and about a mile west to Highway 83. C-130 tankers arrive with retardant from Peterson Air Force Base. Firefighters are forced to retreat where flames crown dangerously overhead and jump roads. Reporter Ryan Handy says homes in Pine Cone Ranch area and at Holmes and Vessey roads are down. As many as 70 Black Forest residents who evacuated to New Life Church are again evacuated because of smoke from the fire. Sightseers are interfering with emergency vehicles on Highway 83. Flying W Ranch fills to capacity with displaced horses. Black Forest Community Center is still standing. Elbert County orders evacuation of Peaceful Valley Scout Ranch in northeast of unincorporated Falcon as a precaution.
2-4 p.m. Fire races north with towering flames on the east, per radio, and it is clear fire has two directions. Reverse 9-1-1 calls go out to last-updated mandatory evacuation zone. High temperature is reached at 90 degrees and humidity is as low as 8 percent. Houses continue to burn, notably in Black Forest Country Club and Blue Spruce Estates. DC-10 airplane with 11,600 gallon capacity joins fight. Crews build bulldozer lines from Black Forest Community Center and use as a command post. Officials close Highway 83 due to sightseers and a creeping threat, but people blow through closure notices there and at Walker and Evans roads. Officials prepare to issue mandatory evacuations west of Highway 83 and pre-evacuation orders for subdivisions on the Douglas and Elbert county borders. Colorado Springs issues voluntary evacuation for all neighborhoods north of Old Ranch Road and west to Interstate 25. Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region shelters 146 small, displaced animals. Disaster declaration is announced, securing $5.5 million in fire funding.
4:30-5 p.m. El Paso County Sheriff's Office reports 92 homes are total loss (count was concluded at noon). Point of origin is determined to be from southwest corner of mandatory evacuation area - near Shoup Road and Highway 83, where it was first reported. Responders are investigating one missing person. Fire has burned at least 8,500 acres, is uncontained, pushed through lines and has doubled back in places. Fire has reached Walker Road, a mile and a half north of Hodgen Road. About 9,500 people, 3,400 homes, 150 businesses and 200 out buildings are evacuated. Number of responders rises to 487 firefighters and 112 law officers including 28 local fire districts, eight statewide law enforcement agencies, Fort Carson and National Guard. C-130s have dropped 6,000 gallons of fire retardant. CSFD has 60 firefighters stationed in Flying Horse. Deputies ask people to text instead of call over jammed phone lines. Interstate 25 has severe traffic, more so than usual rush hour.
5:30-7:30 p.m. Origin is updated to be north of Shoup Road near Darr Road, no cause known. Reporter Jakob Rodgers sees fire has extended to northeast corner of the evacuation area, to Table Rock Road. It nears Cathedral Pines in southwest corner. Mandatory evacuation is extended a mile south to Burgess Road and two miles east to Eastonville Road. Ranchers offer ponds to be used in firefighting effort and they become vital water resources. Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton opens to RVs, horses and livestock.
8-9 p.m. This evening, 93 evacuees find refuge at Palmer Ridge High School and 833 people plus a Noah's Ark of animals are sheltered at Elbert County Fairgrounds. Humane Society reports more than 250 small animals have been sheltered. Air Force Academy along with Peterson, Cheyenne Mountain, Schriever and Buckley Air Force bases have made contributions including trucks, bulldozers, crews and shelter. Three times more firefighters tonight means they can all eat dinner and rest a little.
10-11 p.m. Red Flag warning is issued again for Thursday, from 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and with winds expected up to 35 mph. CSPD comes off accident alert. Civilian firefighters are discovered and asked to leave. Responders continue from hot spot to hot spot.
Thursday, June 13 http://bit.ly/12JGfS0
'SOME HOMES STILL STANDING'
12-4 a.m. Additional fire crews and some crews that got rest arrive, allow others to eat and rest. Mandatory evacuation extended two and a half miles north to County Line Road. "Wall of fire" erupts near Vollmer Road and crews warned of explosive materials in a garage there. Water tenders move north. Fire is very active for this time of night. Crews respond to major hot spots and threatened zones in southeast corner of fire. In other areas, flames double back to previously untouched homes. Bulldozers cut firebreaks across northern boundary and fight continues with steady effort throughout the night. Safeway and Wal-Mart welcome RVs aplenty to their parking lots.
6-7 a.m. Rich Harvey's Great Basin Type 1 Incident Management Team officially assumes command of Black Forest fire; command post moves to Pine Creek High School. As sun rises, airborne assistance heads out to battle and crews report increase in fire activity. Reporter Jesse Paul says it is noticeably more difficult to breathe near smokey fire lines. Major objective for today is protecting northwest corner of fire zone from jumping west of Highway 83, where Woodmoor subdivision of about 3,000 homes and 30,000 people sits in heavily wooded area. Crews wish each other well on radios. Pikes Peak Community College Rampart Range Campus, the media-briefing site, is closed due to fire evacuation. People line roads to watch fire, some with doughnuts. Memorial Hospital sees 16 patients with smoke-related complaints, one is admitted.
8 a.m. Disaster Assistance Center opens for affected residents. One helicopter reported 22 sorties since daybreak and needs to refuel already. Most helicopters used on Wednesday are back at it. Fight is on at Willow Springs Estate subdivision on northeast front off Walker Road.
9 a.m. Sheriff Maketa reports 360 homes are a total loss - 13 more than the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire, and a number Maketa calls, "shocking." Zero containment. No injuries reported, 15,000 acres have burned; 147 square miles (94,000 acres) are evacuated, affecting 38,000 residents in 13,000 homes. Estimated 500 firefighters on scene. Numbers come from media briefing at re-opened PPCC. Maketa says some homes are still standing due to heroic efforts. Eastern line consumes a lot of resources, he says, but is holding for now. High winds already affecting fight today. Two UH-60 helicopters, two CH-47 helicopters and one UH-72 Lakota helicopter prepare for flight.
10 a.m. Small victories, like an extinguished hot spot in Cathedral Pines, do no outweigh intensifying fire. Falcon School District 49 offers facilities to firefighters.
11 a.m.-12 p.m. Missing person reported Wednesday is found. Fire restrictions enacted in Pike and San Isabel national forests, including about a dozen counties surrounding El Paso County. Lockdown ordered at roadblocks. U.S. Postal Service diverts Black Forest area mail.
1:30 p.m. Mandatory evacuation announced for northern Colorado Springs surrounding Flying Horse Country Club. Evacuation is boundaried on north by North Gate, south at Flying Horse Club Drive, east at Highway 83 and west at Voyager Parkway. This is the first mandatory evacuation within the city. It is expanded north about three-quarters of a mile to Sunhills Drive 20 minutes later. City evacuation brings total number of evacuees to 41,000.
2-3 p.m. Fire is pushing north. High temperature is 90 degrees and winds are moving as fast as 36 mph, with gusts at 43. Road closures are extended, notably Highway 83 at Powers Boulevard, and, combined with increased evacuation, Interstate 25 becomes parking lot. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs opens evacuation site at recreation center. Fire intensifies as wind picks up. Hot spots get big at Shoup Road and Falcon Drive, near southwest corner and pushing northwest; and at Hodgen Road and Highway 83 on northwest side.
3-4 p.m. Dual-Status Commander Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Peter J. Byrne selected to lead federal and state responders in fight against Black Forest fire. Rich Harvey remains incident commander. A line is established at Open Sky Way near northern boundary. Thunderstorms produce wind and dry lightning, as meteorologists expected, but precious little rain. Reporter Garrison Wells says it's hard to distinguish between clouds and smoke. Penrose-St. Francis treats four people linked with smoke and breathing issues. Air war intensifies.
5 p.m. Two dead in Black Forest fire, Sheriff Maketa reports. Remains found Thursday in garage with car doors open as if packing. They likely died Tuesday evening. Criminal investigation is opened to investigate deaths. Fire estimated at 5 percent containment, has consumed roughly 15,700 acres. 41,000 people from 14,000 homes evacuated; 750 firefighters on scene. Harvey says not much progress made today, "long way to go."
6-8 p.m. Fire is calmer tonight. Gazette scanner traffic decreases, in part because Type 1 team has switched to a radio system on a frequency likely not picked up by local scanners. School in the Woods, Black Forest Community Center are again declared safe from fire. Animal rescue volunteers make quick pick-ups. 217 families utilize Disaster Assistance Center. Reporter Ryan Handy says from inside burn zone that patches of Black Forest site are untouched while other areas, like Holmes Road, are completely black. Military assistance includes close to 200 servicemen, 12 aircraft, 14 trucks and tenders and thousands of gallons of water and retardant.
9-11:30 p.m. Houses on Saxton Hollow Road, near center of fire, are in good shape. Some mandatory evacuations lifted in Elbert County. 79 people stay the night at Palmer Ridge High School, 148 at Elbert County Fairgrounds and seven at UCCS. CDOT suspends roadwork lane closures on Interstate 25 until further notice. Winds expected at 10-20 mph Friday and an afternoon thunderstorm is predicted.
Friday, June 14 story: http://bit.ly/1238mUP
RAIN COMES TO 'BATTLE OF BLACK FOREST'
12-2 a.m. El Paso County Sheriff's Office releases update to preliminary housing report: 379 homes are total loss. Black Forest fire is most destructive in Colorado history. Seven crews are dedicated to assessing property loss. Joint information manager Jacqueline Kirby says not many fire reports are coming in this evening. Tewkesbury Court a "haven" for looters, according to scanner traffic. Crews continue to fight, and little is heard on progress. Weather is much calmer than the past three days.
5-7 a.m. Sheriff Maketa remarks on the Today show that arson is possible cause. He tells Gazette that Thursday was a "swing day" and, "we're turning a corner." Number of firefighters on scene is reported to be at 800. National Weather Service reports humidity in Colorado Springs has improved for firefighters to around 15 percent, but warns thunderstorms will develop around noon. Looting is a side issue, police are on guard and have no reports of looters.
9 a.m. Sheriff Maketa and incident commander Rich Harvey say at news conference that Thursday night was a good night for firefighters, who did not give up any large chunks and gained some ground. "Everywhere it's grass, we are winning," Harvey said. Officials are working on a re-entry plan. Maketa encourages people to wash their cars and park them in exposed places in superstitious hope of rain.
11 a.m.-1 p.m. Ten more destroyed home are added to preliminary evaluation, bringing total to 389. Sheriff Maketa tells The Denver Post he is "pretty confident" cause was not natural. Escorts are available for some evacuees to return home. Identification is required. The wait for an escort is said to be two hours. Harvey tells KOAA that what happens Friday afternoon will determine fire's future. Heat reaches 91 degrees despite overcast and possibility of thunderstorms. People wash cars. Firefighters enter pivotal few hours.
2 p.m. Lightning strikes over northern El Paso County, winds pick up to 35 mph, with gusts at 47. Resident on Rangely Drive just west of mandatory evacuation douse a small lightning-caused grass fire.
3-4 p.m. Radar shows heavy rains over Black Forest fire, with more on its way. Firefighters report issues with lightning and wind, but rain is helping. Mandatory evacuation in the city of Colorado Springs and other orders for immediate evacuation east of Highway 83 are lifted. New mandatory evacuation lines are Highway 83 east to Eastonville Road and from the El Paso County line south to Burgess Road. Additional aid from National Guard is on its away, so are two UH-60 helicopters, one each from Wyoming and Nebraska National Guards.
5-6 p.m. Number of homes destroyed jumps again, to 400 of 2,512 checked. Fire is 30 percent contained. Homes east of Meridian Road are taken off of mandatory evacuation. Officials report tremendous gains. Tips on possible causes are flowing to sheriff's office, with no determination made. About 8,000 residents are allowed to return home, taking number of evacuated down to 33,000. Interstate 25 is jammed for hours with rush hour and evacuees.
6-8 p.m. Firefighter traffic is heavy on Meridian Road and others near where residents are returning. Disaster Assistance Center has served 473 families. Temperatures on Saturday will only reach to 70s, winds 10-15 mph.
9 p.m. Sheriff's office reports 19 more destroyed houses. Total is 419 homes.
Saturday, June 15: http://bit.ly/11gvzrb
12 a.m. Preliminary housing report again increases number of structures lost: 473 as of midnight. 3,181 homes appear unaffected.
8 a.m. Colorado Springs issues "all clear" for evacuation area in city limits. Resources are still being added. At least 1,060 firefighters, 89 engines, 20 water tenders, eight helicopters, two airplanes and two bulldozers are fighting the Black Forest fire. Acreage burned dips slightly from 15,700 to 15,500.
10-11:30 a.m. Community meeting held at Palmer Ridge High School with local officials. Mail delivery resumes for some, but not all, residences in ZIP codes 80106, 80132, 80921 and 80831. Most mail for Black Forest ZIP 80903 continues to be delivered and held at Briargate Station due to road closures.
12-1 p.m. Falcon Firefighters have Black Forest fire 45 percent contained and begin moving through burned area to extinguish any hot spots. Officials are optimistic. Incident commander Rich Harvey is confident in eastern lines, says "rabbit ears" on west side of fire will be focus today. Officials say at news conference one missing person report is filed. Person is found before end of conference. Officials confirm less radio activity means less action. Falcon Fire Department Chief Glenn Levy says 80 percent of fire is in Black Forest, 20 percent in Falcon. Firefighters are leaving letters at every home they come across. The sheriff's office has been alerted to 92 people who refused to leave their homes and checked in on 78 of them. Only two homes have been destroyed, but the office has 14 homes to go.
2 p.m. Houses on Howells Road, Rainbow Lane, Ford Drive, Leprechaun Lane, Crosslen Lane, Timberlane Court and Timber lane are taken out of mandatory evacuation zone. High temperature is 86 degrees, winds are considerably less than the last four days and relative humidity is in the 20s. National Weather Service issues severe thunderstorm warning for southern Colorado including El Paso County and the Black Forest burn area. It is scheduled to end at 9 p.m. Sheriff's office says mandatory evacuation re-entry passes may be distributed Monday.
4:30 p.m. Number of destroyed homes updated to 480. Humane Society is sheltering almost 800 animals at their shelters after reuniting 100 with owners.
5 p.m. Red Cross closes shelters at UCCS and Elbert County Fairgrounds.
6-6:30 p.m. Sheriff Maketa holds a last-minute news briefing to alert residents part of the mandatory evacuations are being lifted. The new boundary snakes across the northwest corner of the evacuation zone. Harvey says that containment is at 55 percent. Identities of the two people killed in the Black Forest fire are expected to be released Sunday or Monday. An updated assessment states 483 homes have are total loss.