Fire within a mile of Highway 24
SUMMIT COUNTY — Officials at the 3,400-acre Waldo Canyon Fire, near Colorado Springs, said Monday morning they are preparing a more aggressive attack against the fire where possible, and establishing significant fire lines with bulldozers to protect the northern flank, where several spotfires have burned toward Eagle Camp.
“We expect winds out of south … and terrain to be factors … we have more room to work in that direction,” spokesman Greg Huele said during the morning briefing.
A lake in the area has given firefighters some of the resources they need to install pumps, hoses and sprinklers that could help protect individual structures, according Huele. Firefighters will get some additional help from modified military transport planes equipped to drop water or fire retardant. The C-130s started flying missions mid-day.
Huele said there has been no shortage of firefighting resources at the Waldo Canyon blaze.
“Nothing we have asked for has been turned back,” he said, responding to a reporter question during the morning briefing.
Huele said the fire has moved closer to Highway 24 in the past 24 hours and that keeping the fire north of the busy highway, and away from residential and commercial areas in the corridor, continues to be a main priority.
In some places, the fire has burned to within a half mile of the highway, and Huele said there is concern that the canyon could act like chimney to spread the flames.
The 5,000 residents of Manitou Springs were able to return home, but 6,000 other residents in surrounding areas were still under evacuation orders Monday morning.
Huele and Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Back said that ongoing fuel reduction and fire mitigation efforts made all the difference in being able to protect homes in the Cedar Heights area, where the flames burned to within several hundred feet of neighborhoods.
Residents of the area have conscientiously been pruning back vegetation, removing brush and dead trees for the past several years, and those efforts likely prevented fires from starting and gave firefighters more room to conduct structure protection activities without being threatened by a forest inferno nearby.
The work also enabled firefighters to do smaller burnouts of fuel pockets with less of a risk of seeing those fires expand into adjacent forest lands.
The cause of the fire is still unknown as investigators have been unable to reach the area where they suspect the blaze started.