It was two years ago today, on June 23, 2012, that the Waldo Canyon Fire started in the Pike National Forest southwest of Colorado Springs, Colorado. On June 26 it spread into the Mountain Shadows area of the city. Before the fire was out, it had killed two people and burned 18,000 acres and 347 homes.
The Colorado Springs Gazette has an interesting article written by Ryan Maye Handy about the impacts of the fire, the rebuilding efforts, and how it affected the residents. It is very well written and worth your time. There is also a video with the article that covers the devastating floods that came weeks and months after the fire. But the website may make you answer two or more stupid questions before it will let you see it.
Below is a brief excerpt from the article:
…Nevertheless in Colorado and around the country, Mountain Shadows is considered a fire recovery success story. Partially due to its urban setting, a greater percentage of homes – 77 percent – have been rebuilt than in any other fire-ravaged community in the state, including neighborhoods in Boulder and Larimer counties and Black Forest. Nearly all the homes in Mountain Shadows were primary residences, whereas in some Colorado fires a significant percentage of houses lost were vacation homes.
Brett Lacey, the Colorado Springs fire marshal who engineered the new fire codes for the hillside neighborhood, has traveled around North America to talk about Mountain Shadows. The neighborhood’s fire mitigation work has become a model for cities in Montana and Canada.
But Mountain Shadows’ fast recovery also echoes a disturbing trend in the West: Catastrophic wildfires wipe the slate clean, making room for bigger, more expensive dream houses in zones that remain at risk for wildfires.
There was much criticism about how the Waldo Canyon Fire was managed in the city of Colorado Springs. At least three official reports were written, two from the city (here and here) and a third from the county sheriff’s office. However one of the most revealing was the result of an independent investigation by a newspaper, the Colorado Springs Independent which revealed facts that were left out of the government-issued documents. After reading the three official reports and then the Independent’s article, I wrote on December 13, 2012:
I am left stunned. Regarding the management of the fire within the city of Colorado Springs, I have never heard of a wildland fire with such a huge impact that was so utterly, catastrophically mismanaged.