Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waldo Canyon Fire

We have a fire burning in our city.  It's at a level 1, which is top priority for the nation, because of the proximity to residential and business areas.  It started on Saturday.  I was at my Farmer's Market in the north part of Colorado Springs.  We noticed the smoke.  We saw the smoke cloud get bigger and bigger.  As I was driving home, this was what I saw:

 None of these pictures are taken by me. They are all on public websites, like our city newspaper, the city pages, the incident pages, and some were taken by people who posted them on their blogs or facebook.

The above picture is what I saw, about 1pm on Saturday.  It was over the ridge at Waldo Canyon, about a mile or two across from where I was at the market.

Here is another picture of the fire burning in the canyon.
 Although it has never been contained, the firemen had lines of attack, to keep the fire burning in the canyon instead of having it come up over the ridge and into our residential neighborhoods to the west of our city.

But, about 4pm yesterday, the winds picked up to 65 mph along the mountains, and it blew the fire straight towards the city.  Within minutes, it had traveled down the ridge and was burning houses and communities.
 People who were already on standby for evacuation were informed they had minutes to get out of their houses.  Roads were blocked to keep people  from going back, and all traffic was at a standstill, trying to get people out of the evacuated areas.  At this point, the entire northwest part of the city, as well as the south side of the Air Force Academy was evacuated.

From this next picture's vantage point, they are looking towards the mountains (which you can't see behind the smoke and haze) at the fire coming down off the ridge.  This is just a few miles from where we lived previously.  We are now about 25 minutes south, and for now, are safe from this fire.

This is a picture of people on the freeway, with the fire in the background.

Garden of the Gods is a National Landmark and Park, here in our city.  Atop one of our tallest natural structures lies the "kissing camels" landmark.  This is a picture of the kissing camels, with the fire in the background.  So far, GoG is safe from the fire, for now.  (Edited to add:  This picture, although I found it through public media, was originally posted by Matt Payne Photograpy and was taken a month before the fire started.  The orange haze is simply the sun, not the firesmoke.  All credit for this picture belongs to him. He has some amazing photographs on his website!)

As I mentioned, the south side of the Air Force Academy was evacuated, where there were residential neighborhoods.  This is a picture from on base, with the fire smoke in the background.

Until yesterday, no structures were lost.  Then, when the fire was feuled by the wind, and it came down the mountain, many homes were lost.  It's devastating to watch, and know that there are people we know and love who have either lost their home or have been evacuated and are waiting to hear if their home was lost.

The city on fire.  So sad to see.

Here is a fire map of what's going on in our city right now.  The red area is where the fire is, with the blue areas being evacuated, and the yellow areas on standby.

There are a few facts about the fire.  First, our area has never seen this kind of devastation, in it's history.  However, we have excellently trained personell helping in all areas, and have many hundreds of crews (fireman, police, medical) that have come down to help.

As of today, 32 thousand people have been evacuated, and are currently staying with friends/family in another part of the city, or are at one of our many shelters designated for them.

The fire has burned more than 15 thousand acres so far.

We have had extreme heat for the past few weeks (over a hundred degrees with no relief) and that isn't helping matters. The fire is hot and the land is dry.  The embers from the fire "hop" over huge areas, including our mountain resevior that is a mile wide.

With a slight thunderstorm on the horizon for tonight, it brings an additional worry that because the burned hillsides have no vegetation anymore, and therefore can't hold any water, it will quickly start a flash flood that will travel down the valleys and into the city, into Manitou Springs, and further south where we live.

The winds are expected to be gusty today, as well, which will direct the fire any way it chooses, and make it impossible to control.  Yesterday's wind gusts sent the fire right past the firefighter's first and second lines of defense.  It's just so powerful.

If you can, please pray for the winds to cease and for the heat to lessen.  The estimated time of control, for this fire, takes us to the end of July.  We pray that no more of our beautiful city or countryside will be engulfed in flames and that no lives will be lost.

One other thing, there was a small fire that started a few miles from my home.  Probably a careless cigarrette thrown out the window.  It was contained quickly, and we weren't in danger, but it definitely caused us to be prepared by having our 72 hour kids ready and waiting.  A fire could break out anywhere, especially with the burning embers that are floating amid all the ash and smoke.  It's a very scary time here for sure.


Becky said...

This made me cry. Beautiful Colorado Springs up in flames. We will be fasting for the fire to be contained.

Patti S. said...

I have family and friends in Co. Springs. All are in the evacuation area. So heartbreaking. Thanks for the update. Prayers continuing here.

Renny's little things said...

I read it in our local newspaper her in Canberra Australia and thought of you guys.Please stay safe and we send you all our love
Cheers Geniene in Aus

Jude said...

How very sad. We don't have anything that devastating over here, although the Peak District National Park is quite close to us, and does have fires. I don't ever remember lives or property being lost - just wildlife. I hope that you remain safe and the fire is brought under control quite quickly. Jude.x