President Obama visits the Waldo Canyon fire

President's Arrival at Colorado Springs
President’s Arrival at Colorado Springs, 12:13 MT, June 29, 2012

President Obama arrived at Colorado Springs at 12:13 p.m. MT Friday, 3 hours and 20 minutes later than the White House’s schedule, then he toured the Waldo Canyon fire area and received a briefing from incident personnel. The schedule called for him to be in Colorado Springs for 2 hours and 50 minutes.

The original plans were for Air Force One to park at Peterson Air Force base on the northeast side of the Colorado Springs Airport, but instead it went to the opposite side, perhaps to avoid interfering with operations of the four military MAFFS air tankers at Peterson. The President, accompanied by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and several other politicians departed the airport in an SUV, rather than a helicopter.

President's statement at Waldo Canyon fire
President’s statement at Waldo Canyon fire, 1:38 p.m. MT, June 29, 2012. CNN

After he looked at some of the burned areas he received a briefing about the status of the fire. Then he made a short statement, speaking contemporaneously, without notes or a teleprompter. Here are some excerpts that I transcribed from the television coverage on CNN:

…Some lessons are being learned about how we can mitigate some of these fires in the future and I know that the Mayor and the Governor and other local officials are already in those conversations. It means that hopefully out of this tragedy some long-term planning occurs and it may be that we can curb some of the damage that happens the next time even though it is obvious that we can’t fully control fires that are starting up in these mountains.

[…]

The last point I want to make, is that we can provide all the resources. We can make sure they are well coordinated. But as I just told these firefighters what we can’t do is to provide them with the courage and the determination and the professionalism, the heart that they show when they are out there battling these fires.

When we had a chance on site to see some guys who had just saved three homes in a community that had been devastated, for those families, the work and the sacrifices of those firefighters means the world to them and they are genuine heroes. So we just want to say thank you to all the folks that have been involved in this, we’re proud of you, we appreciate what you do each and every day, and for folks all around the country I hope you are reminded how important our fire departments are, our Forest Service is. Sometimes they don’t get the credit that they deserve until your house is burning down or your community is being threatened. You have to understand that they are putting their lives at risk to save us and to help us. We’ve got to make sure we remember that 365 days a year, not just when tragedies like this strike.

Below is a video clip from Friday morning’s Today Show. It provides an update on the fire including a few seconds from the cockpit of a MAFFS C-130 air tanker..

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One fatality in Colorado Springs Waldo Canyon fire

Map of Waldo Canyon fire, east side June 29, 2012(The map above is an example of how the the Waldo Canyon fire spread into the Flying W Ranch area of Colorado Springs on Tuesday, June 26. HERE is a link to a map that can zoom in to see more details. MODIS/Google)

Authorities searching through the rubble of the 348 homes that burned in the Waldo Canyon fire at Colorado Springs, Colorado found the remains of one person. A second person at that home and another nine are still unaccounted for that live in the areas that burned in the fire.

Firefighters wanted to do some burning out Thursday night to remove some of the fuels adjacent to the firelines but the humidity was too high. That same humidity also prohibited any additional spread of the fire, which has burned 16,750 acres and officially is 15 percent contained at a cost to date of $5.2 million.

President Obama will tour the fire area on Friday to inspect the destruction. Officials said this would not interfere with fire operations and the number of closed roads will be less than you would typically encounter during a Presidential visit. He will most likely fly in to Peterson Air Force Base at Colorado Springs and we are thinking that he may have a photo op with the military MAFFS C-130 air tankers working out of the base.

If the president makes any public comments during his visit it will be interesting to see if he mentions wildland fire preparedness, such as the reductions over the last few years in funding, and the reduced number of firefighters, equipment, and air tankers.

The City of Colorado Springs announced that they will release a list of the damaged homes by mid-morning on Friday. It will be posted on the city’s web site at http://springsgov.com/

A slide show with aerial photos of the destruction in the urban area is jaw-dropping.

Colorado: Flagstaff and Waldo Canyon fires force evacuations

UPDATED at 8:52, a.m. MT, June 27, 2012:

Due to a large number of people seeking information about the Waldo Fire in Colorado Springs, our site hosting provider is having some issues. We have posted updated maps and more information about the fire at our sister site, Examiner.com.

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Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs

The Waldo Canyon fire has burned over 6,000 acres northwest of Colorado Springs since Saturday, but it found new life on Tuesday and exhibited extreme fire behavior as a record high temperature of 101 and strong winds pushed it into a populated area, burning an undetermined number of homes while forcing 32,000 people from their homes.

Around 7 p.m. the southbound lanes of Interstate 25 were closed at Interquest Parkway. The northbound lanes remained open at that time. All lanes were later opened.

An evacuation order was issued after 9 p.m. by the City of Colorado Springs for areas that are north of Garden of the Gods Rd. between I-25 to the east all the way to the western City limits and north to the Air Force Academy. The evacuated areas in the Air Force Academy include Academy Dr. to the USAFA’s southern and western boundaries.

The Academy’s glider port is being used as a helibase for the helicopters dropping water on the fire.Their Class of 2016, consisting of 1,045 freshmen cadets, are scheduled to arrive Thursday.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team, Great Basin Team 2, Incident Commander Rich Harvey, assumed command Monday morning, June 25.

Information about evacuations can be found at InciWeb. Public Information Center Phones: 719-520-7058, 720-402-7935, 720-202-4510, 720-237-9947, 720-237-3417

The City of Colorado Springs also has some fire information, including a map of areas that are under evacuation orders.

Flagstaff fire near Boulder

Flagstaff fire, June 26, 2012
Flagstaff fire, June 26, 2012 (KWGN)

The Flagstaff fire started mid-afternoon on Tuesday about three miles southwest of Boulder, Colorado and by 4:45 p.m. had spread so rapidly that a Type 1 Incident Management Team from California staged in the Denver area, Rocky Opliger Incident Commander, was dispatched to manage the fire. First called the Bison fire, it became the Flagstaff fire, named after a nearby road.

The first evacuations were ordered before 3:28 p.m. and the size at that time was estimated at 200 to 300 acres.

Below is information as of 9:00 p.m. from the City of Boulder Office of Emergency Management:

  • Only 26 homes have been evacuated. Those were near Bison Drive and Kossler Lake.
  • A total of 2,416 reverse notifications have been sent to people in and around the affected area [to remain on standby in case of a change in fire direction and behavior overnight]
  • Three helicopters and two tanker planes were working the fire until sunset.
  • About 100 firefighters are on the ground doing structure protection through the night.
  • The fire is burning in upper Skunk Canyon. just west of the NIST/NOAA campus, and expected to produce smoke in Boulder through the night.
  • A Federal Type 1 team is expected to take over management of the fire on Wednesday.
  • All Pets Animal Hospital, 5290 Manhattan Circle, 303-499-5335, is open 24 hours and is accepting small animals. In the case of an evacuation, small animals can be dropped off at All Pets if their owners are unable to take them with them in the case of an evacuation.
  • No structures are threatened at this time.
  • There are no reported injuries and there is zero percent containment of the approximately 300 acre fire.

Area Command Team activated for Colorado fires

An Area Command Team (ACTeam) has been activated to assist in managing the wildfires in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Geographic Area. There are three ACTeams in the nation, and this one, Team 2, is headed by Bob Anderson, the “Area Commander”. For this assignment they are designated “Front Range Area Command”.

These teams are not used very often, typically one to three times a year, and this is the first time one has been used in 2012.

Area Command Team organization

An ACTeam does not directly manage fires or other types of incidents, but they supervise IMTeams assigned to individual fires, or they can oversee the management of a very large incident that has multiple IMTeams engaged.The ACTeam works for the Agency Administrator where the incident is occurring. They will receive a written delegation of authority and will in turn issue one to each IMTeam they supervise.

The primary functions of an ACTeam include:

  • Reduction of the workload for the agency administrator on whose jurisdiction the incident occurs. This can be especially helpful if one agency has multiple large incidents.
  • Coordination and priority-setting of limited resources among incidents, including the the demobilization, reassignment, or sharing of resources between incidents.

These teams are much smaller than a Type 1 or Type 2 IMTeam and usually consist of 7 people when first assigned, but can grow to around 15.

Area Command Team

Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado Springs

Map of Waldo fire, Colorado Springs

The map of the Waldo Canyon fire above shows heat detected by a satellite at 3:35 a.m. June 24. 

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UPDATE at 2:35 p.m. MT, June 24:

The map below shows information about the fire’s location from two sources. The red line is the product of an infrared mapping flight by an aircraft at 11:07 p.m. June 23. The squares with the dots represent heat detected by a satellite about four hours later at 3:35 a.m. June 24.

Map - Waldo fire

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UPDATE at 12:52 p.m. MT, June 24

The Denver Post reported at 12:16 p.m. today that:

…Air resources consist of a helicopter with four helicopters on order. Two heavy air tankers and additional resources are on the way.

Surely this can’t be correct, that there is only one helicopter and no air tankers working on the fire.

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UPDATE at 10:32 a.m. June 24:

We have confirmed that two Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 air tankers have been activated. Jennifer Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service, told us that the agency requested that the aircraft be in place between noon and 6 p.m. MT on Monday. This is the first time the MAFFS air tankers have been used this year.

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9:16 a.m. MT, June 24, 2012

The Waldo Canyon fire west of Colorado Springs has burned approximately 2,500 acres, according to the City of Colorado Springs in a 6:12 a.m. MT update. That site and InciWeb will provide detailed information about the fire, including evacuation notices. However, the InciWeb web site has been having problems, probably due to a large number of people trying to find information about the fire.

There are no reports of any structures being lost.

The map of the fire we have here shows heat detected by satellites at 3:35 a.m. MT, June 24. It shows the fire being less than two miles from the Kissing Camels golf course and very close to Manitou Springs.

Approximately 1,050 homes have been evacuated. Garden of the Gods Park and Garden of the Gods Visitor Center are closed.

A Type 1 Incident Management Team was ordered within a few hours of the first report of the fire. A Type 1 IMTeam is the largest and most qualified team that manages wildfires and other all-hazard incidents.

We are checking on an unconfirmed report that at least one military Modular Airborne FireFighting Systems (MAFFS) C-130 aircraft has been activated. Two are based at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs 11 miles from the Waldo Canyon fire. Through yesterday, none of the eight MAFFS around the country had been used on fires this year.

We will post more information about the Waldo Canyon fire later. Check back with us for more details.

Firefighters in Colorado are working 8 large wildfires

Map of Colorado wildfires, June 23, 2012

The map of Colorado shows eight large wildfires that are keeping firefighters in the state busy today. (Map: Google/MODIS/Wildfire Today)

10:15 p.m. MT, June 23, 2012

New fires reported today include:

  • State Line Fire, near Bondad
  • Waldo Canyon Fire, west of Colorado Springs. Estimated at 2,000 acres at 9 p.m. Saturday night. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered. Approximately 1,050 homes have been evacuated.
  • Treasure Fire, east of Leadville
  • Woodland Heights Fire, near Estes Park, 21 structures confirmed damaged.

There is not a great deal of information available about these new fires, but here are some resources to check: