Colorado: Waldo Canyon Fire triggers mass evacuations

Firefighters trying to keep fire north of Highway 24

The first official map of the Waldo Canyon Fire released via

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The 2,000-acre Waldo Canyon Fire, west of Colorado Springs, is moving at about .25 to .5 miles per hour, and is expected to move toward the northeast today with prevailing winds out of the southwest.

Real-time information is streaming on Twitter at the #WaldoCanyonFire hashtag, and from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office at @EPCSheriff, as well as @springsgov.

Officials announced at 9:55 a.m. that Highway 24 westbound is closed.

With the fire burning close to busy Highway 24, emergency officials ordered new evacuations south of the highway in several neighborhoods. The entire town of Manitou Springs, with about 6,200 residents, has been evacuated. along with surrounding subdivisions in the nearby foothills.

In total, about 10,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders.

“We anticipate movement to the northeast today,” U.S. Forest Service spokesman Greg Huele said, explaining that 400 firefighters on-scene won’t attack the main fire directly, but will focus on protecting structures where they can.

Huele said the fire activity intensified Saturday night at about 10 p.m.

“It picked back up and gained some speed, but crews held the line to keep the fire from moving too far east,” he said. “We’re having a difficult time to locate and establish an anchor point,” he said, adding that the flames have burned to within a quarter mile of structures in the area.

Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said the evacuations are proceeding in an orderly way.

“It’s a time to be calm and a time to be vigilant,” Bach said.

When a wildfire is close to a major city and threatens property and homes, the speed at which people can acquire information about where the fire is becomes critical. Aerial images from Infrared cameras are often not available to anyone except the fire operations commanders, so other resources may be utilized to approximate the location of these wildfire incidents.
To create this generalized image, data was acquired from the NOAA Satellite and Information Service and carefully plotted into a GIS. These points were combined to create an approximate area that is threatened by the wildfire. In previous usage of this method, the correlation between the aggregated area and the actual IR fire boundaries was on the order of 86% of accurate coverage.
Map courtesy Mark Newby. Click to visit the map on Newby’s Black Ice Geospatial website.

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