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.
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.
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.