Colorado Wildfires Escalate Into Major Disaster

9NEWS reports, politics is on hold for thousands of our neighbors today:

The Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs has 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…

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen a wildfire like this in the history of Colorado,” [Governor John] Hickenlooper saidafter flying over the 9-square-mile fire late Tuesday.

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.”

The Waldo Canyon Fire quickly became the greatest concern after being pushed into populated areas yesterday afternoon, but new fires are cropping up all over the state, including one near Boulder that has put thousands of residents there on pre-evacuation notice. In terms of widespread threats to major population centers, it’s hard to remember the last time so many in Colorado were threatened by natural disaster–a few flood events come to mind. The thoughts and prayers of all of us are with those who have been affected.

For those interested in helping, the state emergency management department has teamed with nonprofits to set up this clearinghouse page of donation links and information.

41 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Craig says:

    You failed to say that Hick also asked for the prayers of all Coloradoans for relief from the hot, dry, windy weather.

  2. ClubTwitty says:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47

    Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown called the Waldo Canyon Fire a “monster event” that is “not even remotely close to being contained.” The cause of the fire is under investigation.

    Tuesday night, the community of Mountain Shadows, northwest of Colorado Springs, appeared to be enveloped in an orange glow.

    People were “freaking out” as they fled Tuesday night, local resident Kathleen Tillman told the Denver Post. “You are driving through smoke. It is completely pitch black, and there is tons of ash dropping on the road.”

  3. Gilpin Guy says:

    will reconsider the importance of strong local and national government responses to these cataclysmic event.  Their everyone for themselves ideology doesn’t produce the kinds of coordinated action that is required in this moment.  Citizens and firefighters have a common goal to effectively deal with this community wide threat.

    Maybe some of them will finally recognize what a colossal waste and diversion of funds that Iraq was.  It didn’t make us stronger.  It made us vulnerable to too many fires with not enough tankers.  What a misallocation of government resources.

    • Ralphie says:

      They’ll just blame Obama if the response isn’t there, without regard to WHY it isn’t there.

      So far, the Feds are doing a great job.  But at some point, we will need to replace the air tanker fleet.

      You’d think the military might have a few C-130s to spare.

      • Fidel's dirt nap says:

        about why they can’t use some of the C-130’s at the AFB, but I think they have to be reconfigured in order to be used.  That could be wrong but it is what I heard.  And yes, there is of course bitching that the federal response wasn’t fast enough – predictable.

        • harrydoby says:

          Colorado already has 4 of them assigned to the fires here.  They are specially equipped with the tanks to hold fire retardant materials.

          Yep, we probably should start converting a few more, as the effects of Global Warming won’t be reducing the fire hazards in the coming decades.

        • cunninjo says:

          The CS Mayor noted that C-130s are too big to fly in some of the canyons and other rough terrain areas where this fire is burning. In many cases, the helicopters are the only aircraft that can access the fire.  

  4. SSG_Dan says:

    Five Fire Engines & assoc. firefighters in support. He also had the Fire Chief of Denver there saying they could help with even more assets. All while wearing a stylin’ City of Denver Bike jersey at the Bike to Work day events at Civic Center park

    Kinda glad that we have some of that “stuff that taxes buy” on hand to loan out to other municipalities who don’t believe in “Big Government.”

    PS – hoping for the best for Hal Bidlack, Sen Bennet’s Vet and Military affairs rep. His house is by the AFA, and I hope they can stop the fire before his house is consumed.

    • nancycronk says:

      IAFF Missouri Valley Director. His words, when sharing with me (informally) how the different legislators have interacted with emergency personnel: “Senator Bennet’s office has been  just outstanding… very helpful”. If you are reading this, S.H., kudos.

      Senator Udall’s twitter has also been tweeting helpful information as it becomes available. Given the Congressional delegation’s huge outreach on twitter, I hope all of the Congressman and candidates for Congress begin to do the same, if they aren’t already. As of 11am this morning, Lamborn has not tweeted anything about the fires since 6/25. Late night victory party?

  5. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    One of my coworkers, who I consider as much a brother as the biological one, is a volunteer firefighter who may be sent out on the fire near Boulder if it isn’t contained soon. Not as dangerous as the Colorado Springs one, but still terrifying.

    It takes a special breed of person to hear sirens and feels somewhere, deep down, that their role is not to avoid the area but to go toward them and do something. Here’s hoping everyone stays safe out there and that even the most heroic on the front lines are able to keep it firmly fixed in their minds that buildings are replaceable, but human lives aren’t.  

  6. BlueCat says:

    of Englewood has been evacuated from Colorado Springs.  Our friends in beautiful Manitou Springs were evacuated in the middle of the night Sat/Sunday when the entire town was evacuated but allowed to return Sunday night. Early word was that it appeared to be natural not arson. While some in a crowd being briefed last night seemed bound and determined to place blame, the fact is, as the Governor pointed out, that when 65 mph winds cause both your primary and secondary fire lines to be jumped in the blink of an eye, no amount of organization, planning and boots on the ground are going to stop it.

    The Boulder fire, along with so many of the current fires and probably the Waldo Canyon fire, is thought to be lightening related and more storms bringing more wind and lightening than moisture are expected. The fact that, as far as I know, no lives have been lost in the Colorado Springs area is pretty incredible.

    Bracing for the first wacko rightie celebrity preacher to blame it on allowing gays to serve openly in the military, especially if the fire does serious damage at the AF Academy before it’s over.

    My Chicago cousins have such fond memories of their summer visit as kids to the Flying W Ranch, it’s the one vacation that most stands out in their memories after all (Lots. They’re just a few years younger than me) these years and are especially saddened to hear of that loss. People all over the country are looking for ways to contribute.

  7. nancycronk says:

    I was watching the fire tweets all night. Some of you may know I am on a local fire board, and our guys are out there, putting other people’s lives and property above their own. (Our Fire Chief speaks for our district — I do not speak for anyone but myself.) I also have a brother-in-law in the fire service (he is not in CO). I mention it to say I have a deep appreciation for the courage — and the fear — that their families face everyday, not knowing if this fire could be the last for their loved one. Multiply that for many hundreds of firefighters in CO right now who have come from all over the country to help our state.

    From information that is publicly available, this is what I’ve been reading:

    The conditions in CO have been “the perfect storm” for rapid fire growth — record-breaking heat, wind, dry brittle foliage, etc. The fact that it started in a canyon means much of it is/was burning up; it’s easier for fire to burn up than burn down because the flames and smoke heat the area above it, warming the “fuel source” and drying it out.

    Some of the crews that arrived in Boulder yesterday were later sent to the fire in Colorado Springs, which was growing faster, and more of a threat to population densities.

    According to Colorado Springs resident Hal Bidlack, former Congressional candidate and staffer in Senator Bennet’s office, the Waldo Canyon Fire has tripled in size since yesterday. Here’s another of his facebook posts:

    8 am briefing: number of homes lost still unknown. Over 1000 firefighters working. Fire remains west of Centennial Blvd. USAFA runway now turned over to fire people. My answering machine answered when I called, so feel home is still there. No new evacuations now, but of course will depend on fire.

    From the Pikes Peak Humane Association:

    Do not leave your animals in your car in this heat! There are resources for pet sheltering. 719-473-1741

    The weather report says “hot, dry and sunny” for many days to come, with only a few days giving any chance of rain at all (the most — today, reads 30% chance of rain). Some days say “windy”. The problem with “scattered thunderstorms” is that they often blow over without rain, sometimes creating only lightening, rather than rainfall. http://www.weather.com/weather

    According to the Denver Post, water officials in Colorado Springs say water quality is not compromised, which is always something to think about. DP also reports 800 firefighters on the line last night with 200 or more added today, officials said: http://dpo.st/MSbn4W

    I think it is safe to say these fires are going to take a long time to get under control given the worst conditions Colorado may have ever had for fire. The needs for resources to assist tens of thousands of evacuees will continue to climb. The American Red Cross has the infrastructure to help most efficiently. Please donate generously and encourage those around you to do the same.

    Denver’s daily rag has a great article listing other things people can do to help. http://www.denverpost.com/brea

    Website for Colorado Fires assistance: http://www.helpcoloradonow.org/

    Waldo Canyon Fire Information Center (the one in Colorado Springs) 719-520-7058, 720-402-7935, 720-202-4510, 720-237-9947, 720-237-3417

    • nancycronk says:

      who have been tweeting the latest info about the Waldo Canyon Fire since it started. Great work, journalists. I can’t imagine what your days have been like.

  8. cadenv says:

    I don’t comment on here often, but do feel a personal need to for this.  Ten years ago, when I was between my Jr and Sr year in High School, my parents and I were evacuated during the missionary ridge fire.  We were fortunate that our house and my parents lodge survived, and that the nature of my parents business allowed us to relocate into a home they normally would rent to tourists outside of the evacuation zone, but being displaced for the summer, with limited belongings, was a trying time.  If you haven’t done so already, I encourage anyone who is able to go through their closets, pick up an extra case of water at the store, or do whatever you can to assist those who are away from their homes and are uncertain as to whether their homes are still there.  For myself, I happen to be moving back to Vallecito Lake (temporarily) now that grad school is done, and it gave me a good reason to thoroughly go through my closet and find a lot of new or hardly used articles that I know from experience will be greatly appreciated.  Remember, even though it is summer, if you find some old winter clothes, those could come in handy for anyone who has lost everything a few months from now.  

    Thanks…

    ca

  9. MADCO says:

    Can’t stop the first, too late to remove enough of the latter to change much now.

    Wind makes it WORSE. BIG WIND – we should  be talking about who is in the path worst case.  BIG WIND and there is no human factor that can control or alter the path.

    Manitou gets big, predictable winds.  If that fire gets across I25, the Black Forest will burn – nothing but fuel.

    OTOH- there is a market solution to this.

    Let home and other property owners carry their own insurance, or pay out of pocket for whatever response is needed.

    Won’t take many fires before the anti-tax, anti-Gov crowd will acknowledge that the time to acquire the tools and train the crews is way before they are needed.  All we can do now is donate and pray.

    And of course, all the suffering is punishment form God. If not for eating shellfish, then for the gays or the war on Christmas or the persection of one or another believer.

    Finally (and more seriously) I have not seen anything authoritative on sources for these fires.  Could it be terrorists and other enemies disrupting and distracting us?

    Is it arson?

    Is it natural?

    Once the fuel is gone – how long to regenerate?  

    Hayman is still pretty fuel-less, but I understand it was because of really REALLY hot soils.

    • caroman says:

      The morning news reported that law enforcement is looking for a “person of interest” with a prior arson history.  So, could be one of those homegrown terrorists.

      • Lurker19 says:

        says that the righties have been expecting forest fires as the next big act of terrorism and it’s either Al Qaeda or the Occupy Terrorists striking back for the camping ban.

        (Which was in Denver and the fire is in the Springs, but logic and right wing nuttia theories seldom collide.)

        My sister who evacuated to her mother-in-law’s only to be called for a pre-evac again is pretty sure it’s arson.  3 starting points and a clear blue sky without a single cloud.

        But Occupy and/or Al Qaeda, I’ve got my doubts.  

  10. Car 31 says:

    Please – do not donate clothes to evacuees. The last thing emergency personnel need and have time for is to sort through a bunch of discarded clothing.

    The Red Cross is good and your time is even better.

  11. Gray in Mountains says:

    “we don’t need more firefighters…”

  12. nancycronk says:

    BREAKING: President Obama to tour Waldo Canyon today. http://www.denverpost.com/brea…  

  13. ProgressiveCowgirl says:

    It won’t solve the problem, but I hope it offers a little relief to firefighting crews…

  14. DavidThi808 says:

    It keeps popping over the ridge a bit and they keep putting that part out. Plus we got some rain – lightening with it starting a couple of other fires but 2 of those are out and they don’t seem too worried about the third.

    So we’re still on pre-evac notice and are keeping all the family pictures in the cars. But we’re also still sleeping at home and I think it won’t get to our houses.

    Tons of fire trucks and police in the neighborhood. The police are there to stop all the idiots who were going to go hiking up towards the fire.

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