Waldo fire controlled, but problems left in its wake


Andrew Notbohm, who ramrods fire mitigation for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, studies an area in the Cedar Heights subdivision where the Waldo Canyon Fire ran out of "fuel," thanks in part to brush-removal efforts in recent years by residents and the CSFD.
Westside Pioneer photo
Declared 100 percent contained July 10, the deadly Waldo Canyon Fire was remaining stubborn to the end, with two areas still smoking midway through the week.
       But the U.S. Forest Service did not see that as a setback according to a report from the fire's current incident commander, Troy Nelsen. “Residents near the Waldo Canyon fire may continue to see smokes over the next few days but those are all in the interior of the fire,” reads his July 11 report. He added that “firefighters continue to mop up smokes, monitor and support utility infrastructure repair.”
       He urged citizens not to report smoke sightings in those two areas - Blodgett Peak (west of the Air Force Academy) and a quarry southwest of Woodmen Road and Centennial Boulevard, where a deep chip pile is burning itself out.
       The fire, which had started June 23 in Waldo Canyon and did its worst damage June 26 - when 346 homes were destroyed in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood - had been listed at 98 percent containment since last week. Once listed at 18,500 acres in size, the fire was later remapped, with the overall size finally listed at 18,247 acres. The cause remains unknown.
       The Coroner's Office has identified the two individuals found dead at 2910 Rossmere Street in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood after the June 26 inferno. They are William Everett, 74; and Barbara Everett, 73. Their deaths are under investigation, according to Colorado Springs Police.
       After threatening the Westside, particularly near the hillside Cedar Heights neighborhood, the fire was controlled around June 30, resulting in the lifting of evacuation and pre-evacuation orders on nearby areas.
       With the containment, the number of firefighters has dropped from a high of nearly 1,600 to less than 100. Holmes Middle School's camp, where dozens of tents were pitched for several days, has closed, with the command facility relocated to Woodland Park High School.
       To declare 100 percent containment, a blaze has to go at least 24 hours without smoke being seen, and on the evening of July 10 it had been 36 hours for the Waldo Canyon Fire. The lingering smoky areas were related to warmer, dryer weather moving in, Nelsen said July 11.

Showing the unpredictable nature of the fire above the Cedar Heights subdivision, a few unburned trees stand amid scorched timber in this view overlooking Williams Canyon.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Anyone who suffered losses resulting from the fire are encouraged to go to El Paso County's Disaster Recovery Center (DRC), at 105 N. Spruce St., which is manned by representatives of multiple private and public agencies from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
       A loss to outdoors lovers is the popular Waldo Canyon Trail, which has been closed indefinitely, along with its trailhead parking lot off Highway 24 about a mile west of Manitou Springs. The trail suffered “extensive damage” during the fire, according to a press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation.
       A hotline (385-2222) has been created in hopes of solving more than 60 burglaries of homes and vehicles owned by people who had to evacuate during the Waldo Canyon Fire. Anyone “with information that leads to the arrest of an individual as it relates to evacuees who had their homes or vehicles burglarized will be eligible for up to a $50,000 reward,” according to Colorado Springs Police.
       The reward is being offered by a private individual who prefers to remain anonymous, according to police spokesperson Barbara Miller.

A U.S. Forest Service map shows the area of the 18,247-acre Waldo Canyon Fire.
Courtesy of Forest Service

Westside Pioneer article