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Colorado wildfires: Day 5: Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs burns several homes, thousands evacuated

1:12 AM, Jun 28, 2012   |    comments
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The fire forced more residents to evacuate their homes on Wednesday.

The entire town of Cystola is under a mandatory evacuation as of Wednesday afternoon. North of the Air Force Academy to the Douglas County line and west to Interstate 25 is under a pre-evacuation notice.

The Waldo Canyon Fire has already forced more than 32,000 people out of their homes and destroyed structures on Tuesday. On Wednesday, crews hope to protect Highway 24 and prevent the fire from moving northeast and east.

The Waldo Canyon Fire has burned several homes have burned in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. The total number of homes lost is unknown as of Tuesday night.

A firefighter told the Colorado Springs Gazette during a briefing Wednesday that between 200 to 300 homes may have been lost.

The fire exploded after winds in excess of 65 mph fanned the flames Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, fire officials said the fire was burning 15,517 acres with only 5 percent containment. On Tuesday, it was only 6,200 acres.

Wednesday morning, a pre-evacuation warning was issued for southwestern Douglas County. The boundaries for that warning are Palmer Divide Road on the south, Noe Road on the north, Spruce Mountain on the east and Rampart Range Road on the west. Residents in the affected area need to make immediate plans for the evacuation and care of family members and animals. The Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock can accommodate evacuees and large animals should an evacuation become necessary. Residents are urged to gather important documents, medications, and important personal effects so that they will be immediately available should conditions deteriorate.

At 10 p.m. Tuesday, a mandatory evacuation order was issued for The Kissing Camels area, which includes south of Garden of the Gods Road, west of Centennial Blvd., east of 30th Street, north of Fillmore Street and Fontmore Road. This includes the area of the Holland Park neighborhood west of Centennial ONLY. Holland Park east of Centennial is not under an evacuation order at this time.

City of Colorado Springs

Gov. Hickenlooper joined Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach in a news conference Tuesday night.

"I don't think we've ever seen a wildfire like this in the history of Colorado," Hickenlooper saidafter flying over the 9-square-mile fire late Tuesday.

Governor John Hickenlooper also issued the following statement earlier Tuesday night:

"An unprecedented weather pattern of hot days and dry conditions has made our fire season among the worst ever. Federal, state and local authorities are working together to address the situation and we are doing everything we can to protect lives and property. If there was an executive order for rain, we'd sign it immediately, but what we can do now is provide support and resources to communities that are most at risk."

Tuesday night, Incident Commander Rich Harvey said the Waldo Canyon Fire is a "firestorm of epic proportions."

Harvey says crews worked through Tuesday night to battle the blaze. There are more than 700 personnel fighting the fire.

The following are the areas under mandatory evacuation:

  • Pine Valley Housing on the Air Force Academy - All residents evacuated on Tuesday. Residents proceeded to the Fort Carson Special Events Center and were encouraged to bring as little baggage as possible.
  • Mountain Springs, Peregrine and Westwood - At approximately 4 p.m. Tuesday, the fire progressed west to east in Division Y crossing Queens Canyon and established itself on the east aspect of the Front Range.

The city of Colorado Springs has a population of 416,000.

The evacuation order for Crystal Park subdivision has been lifted and residents allowed to return.

According to Harvey, nearly 800 firefighters are fighting the blaze. He says that number will increase Wednesday. Additional aerial resources also arrived Wednesday.

Waldo Canyon Fire updates

Harvey said that an infrared flight flew over the fire Tuesday night go help get a better idea of where to allocate resources Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday, the fire breached primary and secondary containment lines after heavy winds switched directions several times.

More than 100 Colorado Springs police officers are supporting firefighters on the ground.

Officials are asking that everyone stay off cellphones unless it's a life threatening emergency. Phone lines are getting jammed from overuse.

American Red Cross Colorado chapter

Evacuees urged to go to friends and family who live away from fires to free up space in shelters.

Interstate 25 opened back up Tuesday night. Earlier on Sunday, the Colorado Department of Transportation had closed the southbound lanes of I-25 at the Parkway exit to facilitate evacuees. However, the westbound exits of Woodmen, Nevada/Rockrimmon and Garden of the Gods Road are all closed.

The mandatory evacuation order remains for all of Cedar Heights, Mountain Shadows and Peregrine. Residents are asked to leave the area immediately and may not return home.

Residents are being notified by automated calls and by uniformed police officers advising them of the mandatory evacuation.

The Red Cross Shelter at the Cheyenne Mountain High School is open. Residents can bring small caged pets and companion animals (cats & dogs) with them to the shelter. The Penrose Equestrian Center is sheltering large animals.

On Monday, firefighters attacked the Waldo Canyon Fire from the ground and went on the offensive, but Tuesday's weather conditions contributed to the signifant fire movement.

The Red Cross is accepting monetary donations for those affected by the fire. Firefighters say they are very grateful that people are trying to help, but they cannot accept food from residents. If you want to support the firefighters, donate to the Red Cross or Goodwill.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The spread of the Waldo Canyon fire has forced the Postal Service to relocate postal operations for affected customers to pick up their mail. The decision impacts approximately 1130 Post Office Boxes and 850 street deliveries.

 

  • If you live in Green Mountain Falls, CO, 80819, mail pickup will be out of the Woodland Park, Tamarac Station, located at 900 Tamarac Parkway. Hours of service are 9-5. Questions can be directed to 719-686-0240.
  • If you live in Cascade, CO, 80809, mail pickup will be at the Colorado Springs, West End Retail Unit, located at 204 S 25th St 80904. Hours of service are 830-5:30. Questions can be directed to 719-570-5456.
  • If you live in the Colorado Springs, Cedar Heights area, ZIP 80904, mail pickup will be at the Colorado Springs West End Retail Unit located at 204 S 25th St 80904. Hours of service are 830-530. Questions can be directed to 719-570-5456.
  • If you live in the Rockrimmon area of West Centennial Blvd, South Chuckwagon Road, North 30th and Flying W Ranch Road Colorado Springs 80919, mail pickup will be at the Colorado Springs Rockrimmon Station , located at 5001 Centennial Blvd 80919. Hours of service are 730-530. Questions can be directed to 719-266-8216. 

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