Waldo Canyon fire update: One death, 347 homes destroyed, 20K threatened
Update, 6:26 a.m. June 27: The High Park fire near Fort Collins is still far from containment, but at least the number of people forced from their homes remains somewhat stable for the moment. Not so with the Waldo Canyon fire, which is rapidly encroaching on a wide swath of Colorado Springs, forcing a reported 32,000 evacuations yesterday, and destroying homes. How many we don't know yet because of the blaze's ferocious progress.
The federal InciWeb page featuring the most up-to-date data on the fire (new info was added late last night) lists the acreage consumed thus far at 6,200, a fraction of High Park's size. But this wildfire is all about location. It's so close to Colorado Springs, as well as the Air Force Academy grounds, that it very quickly forced thousands of locals to flee. And the hot, dry, windy conditions have only fed the flames.
The U.S. Forest notes that Red Flag conditions and wind shifts caused the fire to reach the south side of the Rampart Recreation Area and reservoir, and burnout operations to protect structures couldn't halt it. Around 4 p.m. yesterday, the fire progressed west to east, crossing Queens Canyon and establishing itself on the east side of the Front Range, prompting evacuations for Mt. Springs, Peregrine and Westwood -- huge, populous portions of the state's second largest city.
Given the nearness of the fire to Springs proper, thick smoke has made breathing difficult -- and for many, dangerous. Moreover, containment is at just 5 percent, meaning there's still plenty of room for the zone to expand. Hence, firefighters presently numbered at 764 (a sum likely to grow) are concentrating on holding Rampart Ridge Road in an effort to prevent the fire from moving to the northeast and east, while at the same time trying to protect structures along the community's west border.
Simply put, it's an awful situation that's a long way from resolution. Look below to see more photos from the area, followed by our previous coverage.
Update, 6:16 a.m. June 26: Even as firefighters are presently holding their own against the mammoth High Park fire outside of Fort Collins, everything about the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs is getting bigger. More acres burned. More firefighters on the scene. More concern for residents who live all too close to the blaze. And more containment -- but only a little more.
The federal InciWeb page for Waldo Canyon, updated just eight hours ago at this writing, puts the number of acres consumed at 4,500 -- almost a thousand more than this time yesterday, when supervisors noted that plenty of vulnerable land was within reach of the conflagration's main body. As such, the number of firefighters has been bumped up from 450 to 600. And while it's too early to estimate the cost of the blaze to date, there's little doubt it's well into seven figures by now.
The most recent map of the fire zone courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.
The good news thus far is that no structures or lives have been lost. But that's counterbalanced by the fuel supply, consisting of short needle conifers and Western long needle pine with what the feds refer to as a "heavy dead load," plus steep topography, southern exposure that further dries the landscape, and flames that have reached thirty feet in height.
Highway 24 from the Teller/El Paso County line to Manitou Springs, the Pikes Peak Highway and the cog train remain closed, and a pre-evacuation notice has been given to residents of Woodland Park south of County Road 213 -- and that's in addition to the thousands of folks who remain out of their homes. But containment has moved from zero to 5 percent, and given that the fire is expected to be very active today, every little bit helps.
Here are some new user-generated videos of the Waldo Canyon fire, followed by our previous coverage.
Page down to see our previous coverage.