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An encampment for visiting firefighters was set up outside Holmes Middle School during the Waldo Canyon Fire. The crews came with their own cooking and showering facilities, only using the school interior as a place to sleep in the daytime for firefighters who'd worked the night shift.
Westside Pioneer file photo

Guest column: City commemorates 5-year anniversary of Waldo Canyon Fire

       Editor's note: This column was edited for publication from a press release by Kim Melchor, lead communications specialist for the City of Colorado Springs.

       Colorado Springs City Council has signed a resolution setting June 26 as Waldo Canyon Fire Commemoration Day. It urges all residents and businesses to reflect on the amazing efforts to respond to and recover from the Waldo Canyon Fire five years ago.
       Lasting from June 23 to July 10, 2012, the fire burned a total of 18,247 acres and devastated
On the first day of the Waldo Canyon Fire (June 23, 2012), the blaze was only a distant threat to the Mountain Shadows neighborhood (northwest of 30th and GoG Road). But three days later, the wind changed, and the fire burned hundreds of homes in the neighborhood.
Westside Pioneer file photo
the Colorado Springs community, taking two lives and destroying 347 homes.
       The resolution also recognizes the recovery efforts that have taken place over the last five years to help Colorado Springs recover from damage caused by the fire and highlights the resiliency of the Colorado Springs community.
       Below is an overview of the city's actions since the fire.
       Wildfire education and mitigation efforts
       The Mitigation Unit has pursued and received millions of dollars in grant funding that has gone directly to support vegetation reduction and fuel management, neighborhood chipping, education and outreach efforts. Funding and hard work since the fire has resulted in:
             - 7,809 acres mitigated.
             - 2,304 tons of material removed from the Wildland Urban Interface.
             - Developing relationships and working closely with 112 homeowners associations and community groups to address wildfire risk in the community.
       City Forestry has mitigated 300 acres of parks property totaling $1.4 million since 2013 to reduce the level of fire danger in city parks and open spaces.
       Expanded emergency-response training and building requirements in Wildland Urban Interface
       Since 2012, the city has conducted five wildfire evacuation drills in Wildland Urban Interface neighborhoods to give residents first-hand experience of what to expect during an evacuation and how to prepare their families and homes.
       The city has conducted 228 training exercises for city staff and local responding agencies to enhance interoperability during response operations.
       Just six months after the fire (January 2013), the Hillside Ignition-Resistant Ordinance was adopted by City Council, outlining new requirements for building in the Wildland Urban Interface.
As part of flood-prevention work spurred by the Waldo Canyon fire, heavy equipment stabilized the banks in five main parts of Camp Creek through the Garden of the Gods in September and October 2016. The crew here was working just north of Chambers Way.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Wildland training continues to be a high priority (pre- and post-Waldo Canyon Fire), as we incorporate partner fire departments to participate in training and exercises which improves interoperability.
       Significant rebuilding efforts in Mountain Shadows and revegetation of the Burn Scar
       Eighty percent of homes damaged or destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire were rebuilt in less than two and a half years; today 92 percent - or 316 of the homes lost - have been or are being rebuilt.
       For those rebuilding in Mountain Shadows, plan review and permit fees were waived and inspections were expedited in order to facilitate the recovery process.
       The Waldo Canyon Fire Burn Scar has an estimated 70 percent revegetation rate. All recovery has occurred as a result of millions of dollars in federal, state and local funding, as well as more than 100,000 hours of volunteer work to plant grasses and trees, stabilize mountain slopes, protect against flooding and help people find ways to rebuild their homes.
       Flash-flood mitigation work continues as Burn Scar heals
       Following the fire, the city participated in several multi-agency studies to determine best practices for managing the increased threat for flash flooding resulting from the Waldo Canyon Burn Scar. In combination with several state and federal mitigation grants, the City of Colorado Springs has invested approximately $30 million to construct flood detention and channel stabilization along North and South Douglas creeks and Camp Creek. These efforts will help prevent debris and sediment from entering the city's storm-water system and reduce flooding concerns in western Colorado Springs.
       Planning and design of a large detention pond at the north end of Camp Creek in the Garden of the Gods Park is nearing completion, with construction anticipated to begin this fall. This detention pond will capture sediment and reduce flows downstream in the Camp Creek Basin and reduce the size of the Camp Creek flood plain.
       As part of the city's intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo, design has begun for a 2018 project that will address the concrete-lined channel of Camp Creek along 31st Street. It will restore natural vegetation to a large portion of the concrete channel, which, when complete, will significantly reduce the flood plain along this corridor.

(Posted 6/14/17; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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