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Waldo Canyon Fire

2012 June 24

From the summit of Pikes Peak, Sat Jun 23 2012, 1500

Ten years ago, the Hayman fire ripped through my “backyard”, destroying over 100,000 acres of Colorado forest. Today, a much smaller fire is licking at the outskirts of Colorado Springs, in what could be considered my “front yard”, an area that I have hiked for many hours and many miles. Know that I am safe, as is everyone not on the fire line … and God bless them, that is truly a heroic job.

Jun 23, Saturday Evening:

Coming back from a hike today, I saw a column of smoke rising out of Ute Pass, which connects Woodland Park to Colorado Springs. That fire was in Waldo Canyon. 5 hours later, it was over 1000 acres and about 250 homes are under direct threat, with many more considered at risk, and mandatory evacuations in the Colorado Springs west side – including Garden of the Gods stables (not enough trailers to do so efficiently). Over 1000 homes under evac orders. Waldo Canyon is a local hiking favorite with a developed trail and paved trail head parking lot.

Things have slowed down tonight, but tomorrow will likely be just as hot and dry with gusty winds picking up late morning. If they can’t get control by then, it could blow up – either hopping the highway to the south and burning up Pikes Peak, or burning with few barriers to the north, or burning east – first into the Cedar Heights million dollar housing subdivision and, if it continues, into established neighborhoods in the west side. If it blows northeast, it could threaten the Air Force Academy. If it burns southeast, it threatens Manitou Springs. It could threaten US Hwy 24 which would effectively cut Woodland Park off from Colorado Springs.

Winds in Ute Pass are extremely variable in both direction and speed. The Feds are setting up a command center tonight. I wish them the best of luck over the next few days. With luck, they may trap this in one, maybe two canyons, and keep it from spreading. With luck.

It took something like 5 days for the Springer fire mentioned above to get to 1000 acres. It took this one something like 5 hours.

US Forest Service just upped the size estimate up to 2000 acres.

Columbine, pestemons, indian paintbrush, wild rose all blooming. Turkey, elk, and deer track on the route. The creek I hiked was nearly dry; saw some brookies trapped in a pool. Waldo is now ash.

Sunday aft, June 24

Woke up to the smell of smoke.
Enough smoke, that it has muted the sunlight.
Smells kind of like perpetual campfire.
A desert campfire.

If you go just a little east of here,
you cross the saddle of the pass,
see the pass laid out before you,
the smoke column rising above you.
Can’t see the flame from here,
but apparently could from the Springs last night.
Like Hayman was for Woodland.

They closed Highway 24 this morning.
Which means that hundreds, maybe thousands,
of weekenders are going to have to find
alternate routes back home.
Through Deckers. Or Guffy.
Or, if they don’t know better, Cripple Creek.
Routes that take will take 4 to 5 times more gasoline.
So everyone will fill up here at gas stations
that normally are fed by tankers up from Co Springs.
So I took my first fire precaution, I filled my gas tanks.

The ladies of the station did not laugh
when I jokingly asked when they would run out.

Ute Pass is about 20 miles long,
Manitou Springs on one side,
Woodland Park on the other.
Two thirds of Manitou is reported
to be under mandatory evac orders.
The evacuation zone extends up to
the El Paso county line
4 or 5 miles from here.

City bulldozers worked through the night,
to build a fire line around housing,
to establish a defensible perimeter,
a wall of nothing, earth scraped bare,
to divide this here from that there.
“Thou shall not pass!”


Pic from Wiki re Hayman fire. Hayman burned that brown swatch from the middle of the pic to the top. On the left, I have circled the approximate region of the Springer fire, mostly contained just last Thursday/Friday. Several resources were redirected from the Springer fire (started, apparently, by a couple of yahoos firing on propane tanks) to the Waldo Canyon fire (circle on the right). To add insult to injury, there is an arsonist running around that has lit a dozen of so fires in the area over the last week or so.

If you want to explore, this is the google map link.

And here is a google earth link
(sourced from Inciweb (A Unified Command resource?))

Fire perimeter as of June 23, 1100pm

The northern edge there is pressed against Rampart Range Road. Fire crews will obviously want to try to hold the line there. It is a road which means equipment and men can move along it. But it is also not “cleared” along the edges and it would be easy for a fire to cross over. Indeed, in the pic above, you can see an isolated segment of the fire on north road possible started from flying embers. That is why US 24 to the south is not a guaranteed fire line. Embers could be carried over the divided highway in the narrow part of the pass.

June 24 1300: Evacuation Zones

Jun 24 1600

Per twitter and KKTV, at least one WP gas station is now out of gas.

Oh, great. New fire to the north of me. 15-20 acres. Rainbow Falls/Trout Creek is a bit east of Hwy 67, one of the two open routes out of Woodland Park.

1630: #COSpringsFireRadio: 1630: “Fire is chewing through the dozer line, retardant line is holding”

CS Fire Radio

1800: … “a pretty good flareup just north of the tower and under the powerlines”
(probably: Site 424 Cedar Heights WPUF980 (1.6 mi. N/W of Garden of the Gods)
38 53 35.0 N, 104 54 47.9 W)


… Asthma patient …

… transformer smoking …

1837: … Request for electrical service at Severy and Pyramid Mountain …
(that’s Cascade)

1903: … eyes on Hwy 24 … coming down west of Cedar Heights …

1910: … Manitou spotters on Crystal Peak confirm fire in the junipers in Williams Canyon … no threat at this time …

various: CS fire dept has been chasing reports of “smoke” all over the city. So far, they are all just people reporting wild fire smoke that is drifting through CS, ie .. false alarms.

So this map is updated with the TroutCreekFire to the north of me. Relatively small, it has prompted evacuations. As a reminder, the Springer fire on the west side is considered contained. The WaldoCanyonFire is totally uncontained. Kind of spooky seeing fires on each of the main roads out of WP, one of which is already closed. The TroutCreekFire was contained by 8 or 9 this evening.

I can confirm that the WP gas station “Cenex” is out of gasoline; the Safeway station is out of unleaded and regular unleaded but is still selling premium. Other stations appear to be operating as normal.

Monday Jun 25

Smoke much diminished this morning in Woodland Park.
(Or am I just becoming acclimated?)
Inciweb has not yet published their new map.
The fire is now at 3600 acres (which is why I know they have a new map).
US 24 remains closed. Manitou Springs now longer under evac.
They announced this morning that the fire is in the head of Queens Canyon.
But it was already there Sat eve according to the original map.
(… maybe that bit is technically a branch of the canyon. Terrain map here)
They are using Eagle Lakes (Palmer Reservoir) as a base camp.
Fire crews have switched channels; lost my internet radio feed

Denver Post composite map June 23, 24

Gazette Telegraph updates

According to twitter-feeds, C130s grounded due to smoke.

Gazette reports beginning to speak about WP evacuations,
no details on boundaries spatial or temporal.

Finished improvising a cat carrier from a laundry basket.

Advice to my wife …
… If you can buy it at Walmart, Home Depot, or Harbor Freight, it’s not coming.

“Firefighters had three big successes today: They kept the fire away from Cascade, they got to 5 percent containment, and they were able to set up two anchor points, safety zones where firefighters can work without the fire at their backs, allowing them to go on the offensive.

Colorado Springs Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lari Seven said arson hasn’t been ruled out, but no one wants to be “presumptive.” She said it will take investigators a couple of days to get to the source of the fire.”
Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/monday-140807-updates-waldo.html#ixzz1yqiC8lox

7PM Community Meeting: Fire grew by 500 acres or so. Burned northwest into Wellington Gulch. This makes Eagle Lake look a little more exposed as an anchor point. No discussion of a WP evac.

Late night reports indicate more than 4500 acres and about 600 firefighters on the site. Interview with USF guy discussed “industrial” style sprinklers on the buildings at Eagle Camp and the ability to drop retardant to further aid in the protection of the camp.

Reports of two fires started earlier tonight on Gold Camp road. This is well south of US24 and not connected to Waldo Canyon fire. Unless it is the same arsonists. Also a fire reported Sat aft in Cheyenne canyon and another one today (I think). Too many fires; it is difficult to face the possible role of deliberate mischief. Of course there is the simple idiots/teenager factor. From the online scanner: “appears to be some sort of campfire built in their garage.”

2012: …Brush fire on 2900 Gold Camp road “after houses, before the tunnel” …

Firefighters turned back on Rampart Range. Not safe. Unsure if they were westbound or eastbound.

2043: … Fire bumping down into Cascade. …

Tue, Jun 26

Our ‘evac’ trailer is packed and ready to go. My car is coming out of the garage, bringing our number back to two. If it comes out early enough, I will probably make a trip down to the Springs.

Seems like a quiet night for the fire, but per Gazette notes, it burned further into Queens Canyon.

8am press conference: 5165 acres. Tent shed in Eagle Camp burned. Fire made a good run up out of Wellington gulch to the north nearly up to Rampart Reservoir, cutting off Rampart Range road and Eagle Lake. Still relatively well controlled on the S/SE corner. Further burning north of Rampart Range road into the head of Queens Canyon**. “ERC” fuel levels are at record highs.

** Queens Canyon splits into two branches. Queens canyon proper is the north branch. Rampart Range parallels the south branch. The fire is in the south branch.

Will post map as soon as its made available.

Gazette changes their updates page

Twitterville reports: “Springs Utilities says power line to Rampart Reservoir burned last night but city has backup generators for up to 2 weeks”

Pre-Evacuation area has been expanded for the Woodland Park area to include the following areas of Woodland Park and Teller County: ALL RESIDENTS EAST OF HWY 24 NORTH OF EL PASO/TELLER COUNTY LINE TO BALDWIN STREET AND RAMPART RANGE ROAD


Woodland Park has expanded the area for standby to evacuate. The added area is east of Highway 24, Baldwin and the City’s Rampart Range Road.


Weather Underground combining the nightly IR KML with local weather and NRT sat imagery

If you have time before you evacuate your family and pets (your family has an evacuation plan in place, right?), back your car into the garage, leave the key in the ignition, and close the garage door. Close windows and doors to the house, and close all inside doors.

Take down drapes and curtains.

Place a ladder against the front of the house.

If you have a combustible roof, wet it down or turn on roof sprinklers.

Turn off the gas at the meter and the butane tank.

Place fire fighting tools, such as 100 feet of pre-connected garden hose, a shovel, a rake, a bucket, and containers filled with water, in an accessible place.


  1. Noelle
    2012 June 24 at 2:03 pm

    I live near Patty Jewett Gol Course and I can really smell the smoke in the air even the air has a bit if a red tint. This whole situation is utmost terrifying, although I do know the fire wont be able to reach my home, that I a whole other story for others. And the fact is just devistating.

  2. 2012 June 24 at 2:14 pm

    A great loss for many.

    Those forests will not recover in our lifetimes. And if this climate is indeed getting drier, may not ever recover their present form, Maybe these lower altitude forests are turning to pinyon-juniper.

    The fight now is just to reduce what is lost. Zooming in on the maps from last night, the fire appears to have breached not only Rampart Range road, but to have jumped Queen’s Canyon. I hope that they managed to pinch that off to control the northward spread, but suspect that almost all effort has been in protecting the Cedar Heights gated community.

    Nothing to do from this end but to prepare (methodically) for evac if needed.

  3. 2012 June 24 at 9:38 pm

    So this map is updated with the TroutCreekFire to the north of me. Relatively small, it has prompted evacuations. Those forests will not recover in our lifetimes.Fire crews will obviously want to try to hold the line there.

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