The view from I-25 in Colorado Springs. Photo: Ben Markus
The Waldo Canyon Fire continues to rage west of Colorado Springs consuming more than 15-thousand acres. Containment stands at just 5-percent. There’s still no word on how many structures have burned, and hundreds of firefighters continue to battle the blaze. Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus has this update.
Reporter Ben Markus: At the afternoon press conference yesterday Incident Commander Rich Harvey stepped to the bank of microphones. Off in the distance smoke hung on the mountains like fog at a graveyard.
Rich Harvey: I’d like to start by saying I hate wind, I wish it’d go away.
Reporter: Harvey said the wind is kicking up and making things hard on the firefighters. Crews were busy digging lines and attacking hot spots with the help of helicopters. Still the fire spread – forcing the evacuation of thousands more yesterday from the town of Crystola near Woodland Park. Again Harvey blamed the wind – saying it was driving the fire in unpredictable directions.
Harvey: So we’re kind of from a fire standpoint used to fires that want to go in different directions. What’s been different about this one, is that they’ve wanted to go in different directions for sustained periods of time. You know, 3-4 hours, all day long, so I’d say it’s a very unusual situation.
Reporter: Harvey pointed to a map behind him that shows the progression of the fire – south one day, north the next, and then east.
Harvey: I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve never seen a progression map look like that.
Reporter: Officials are still assessing how many homes were destroyed. And said numbers could be released sometime today. At a Red Cross shelter at Cheyenne Mountain High School Chester and Beth Mosley, who live near Woodland Park already know there house is gone. It’s the second time in two years their home has burned down. The first was not caused by a wildfire.
Chester Mosley: Last year, our RV burned down and we lost everything we owned, this year our structure is gone and we’re now homeless and her work has been closed since the fire, because the fire started about, oh, a few hundred yards from where she works.
Reporter: Their neighborhood was evacuated Sunday. First to a shelter at Woodland Park High School … which also had to be evacuated when the fire got too close. They eventually ended up here. Chester says they’re leaving the state … for somewhere, perhaps a bit more wet.
Mosley: Next to a river, something like that. We may joke about it but we’re done, this is two years in a row for us, I mean, so we can’t, how many times can you rebuild?
Reporter: Chester says the evacuation Sunday was calm and organized. That was not David Atkinson’s experience. Tuesday evening the fire swept towards his Mountain Shadows neighborhood quickly.
David Atkinson: It was like something out of a Hollywood movie, like a Towering Inferno thing, because the fire came over the ridge, and it was just coming so fast that people were just barely had enough time to run out their house and jump in their car and get away.
Reporter: Thousands of people were all doing the same thing Tuesday night.
Atkinson: And everything was backed up, you couldn’t really go anywheres. People were starting to panic, people were running around in the street, people were driving over curbs and parking lots. It was just a total nightmare.
Reporter: He’s staying with friends – and came to the shelter today to find out if his house burned down. He left without any information -- and he’s antsy to find out.
Atkinson: At least you know, if you’re house is burned down, at least you have a chance to process that accept it, and move on with your life.
Reporter: Fire officials said they expect a front to move in today increasing cloud cover and humidity -- but they cautioned it probably wouldn’t be enough to keep the fire from growing.