Some residents able to visit their neighborhoods to survey damage; Highway 24 re-opens
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters say they’ve been able to more than halfway contain the deadly Waldo Canyon Fire, a blaze that will go down in history as Colorado’s single most destructive wildfire.
The fire started June 23, three miles west of Colorado Springs. Three days later, it exploded eastward toward the city, killing two people, destroying 346 homes and requiring the evacuation of 32,000 people.
By Sunday afternoon, incident commander Rich Harvey said the 17,827-acre fire was 55 percent contained and announced the re-opening of Highway 24, a major transportation route into the central mountains.
Harvey said thunderstorms and cloud cover in the area helped firefighters, who still encountered one- to two-foot flames in dry surface fuels, as well as torching of single trees and groups of trees in unburned interior fuel islands. Despite the cooler and moister conditions, the fire was still spotting in places when the wind and terrain lined up.
Residents were escorted into Mountain Shadows and Flying W neighborhoods Sunday to check their residences for damage, but won’t be allowed to return permanently for several weeks due to damaged to power, water and sewage lines.
Evacuations of the Peregrine and Woodman Valley neighborhoods were lifted, but remain in place for the Mountain Shadows area, south of Wolf Ranch, west of Flying W and north of 30th St.
Islands of unburned fuels west of the U.S. Air Force Academy continue to burn out and produce intermittent smoke columns. Thunderstorms and weather fronts around the fire area continue to challenge suppression efforts.