Waldo Canyon Fire

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Several months prior to the Waldo Canyon Fire, Myrna Candreia had a premonition.  "Something inside me told me, 'You need to prepare for a fire,'" she recalls.  "I had developed this feeling inside that things weren't good. Maybe it was because of the drought we were having?"

One week before the fire, she went to Staples, bought boxes and set them up, but didn't fill them.  "I could have been fully prepared and a lot more prepared.  I wasn't.  I got a few things out," she says.

Courtesy of the City of Colorado Springs

Randy Royal remembers exactly where he was when he first spotted smoke rising from the Waldo Canyon Fire. It was Saturday, June 23rd, 2012. 

"I got called out around 10 or so in the morning for a rollover accident on Bijou and I-25," recalls Royal, who was a battalion chief with the Colorado Springs Fire Department at the time. "I cleared that, went to a high-angle at Garden of the Gods, and as I was driving down Highway 24, I looked up and the column [of smoke] was right in front of me."

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Parkside resident Mike Finkbiner was a roofing contractor during the original construction of the Colorado Springs subdivision, and says Mountain Shadows as a whole was "pretty well planned" when it was built in the 1980s.  It wasn't until 2002 that he moved into the community, and then to a different home in Parkside in 2005.

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Retired electrical engineer Barry Timmons and his wife relocated to Colorado to be closer to family, and lived in the Parkside neighborhood of Colorado Springs for three years before the Waldo Canyon Fire claimed his home.

"It's just a nice area, it was a nice little home," Timmons says.  "It was very conducive to us being a retired couple."

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Carla Albers and her family moved into their Mountain Shadows home in 1990.  They'd always loved the westside and figured it would be a starter home, but ended up loving the neighborhood and the area.  

"It just ended up being up one of those neighborhoods where a lot of younger couples moved in with a lot of kids," she recalls.  "It was just a really great place to raise a family."

Their house was among the nearly 350 homes lost in 2012's Waldo Canyon Fire.

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Cindy and Mark Maluschka moved into their home in Mountain Shadows in 2010. 

"We looked at a lot of houses before we found that house," says Cindy, "when we walked in we knew it was the house."

"It fit us really well," adds Mark. "It was a beautiful house."

During the Waldo Canyon Fire, hundreds of first responders took part in the effort to fight the fire and evacuate neighborhoods threatened by the blaze. It was a massive undertaking, requiring coordination among numerous local, state, and federal agencies.

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

When the Waldo Canyon Fire broke out five years ago, Nick Gledich found himself in two roles. On the one hand, he's the superintendent of District 11.  A number of schools were threatened by the blaze; another served as a staging area for firefighters and first responders.  On the other hand, Gledich was also among the Mountain Shadows evacuees.

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Polly Dunn moved to the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs after retiring from her job as a teacher in District 11. She lived there for several years before the Waldo Canyon Fire took her home in 2012. 

Jake Brownell / 91.5 KRCC

Allan Creely and his wife Sally moved to the Mountain Shadows neighborhood of Colorado Springs in 1998. Both Allan and Sally had retired from the military, and they saw Mountain Shadows as the perfect place to settle.

A study of the 2012 Waldo Canyon wildfire recommends that crews fighting similar fires that spread into urban areas be trained in both structure protection and traditional wildland firefighting tactics. 

Alex Maranghides, fire protection engineer for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST says the investigation shows defensive measures specifically designed for the wildland urban interface, or WUI, can benefit firefighting efforts.

Tuesday Newscast, 11/10/15, 6:04 PM

Nov 10, 2015

Newscast for Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 6:04 PM:

“Things get bad for all of us, almost continually, and what we do under the constant stress reveals who/what we are.” In his posthumous collection, What Matters Most is How Well You Walk Through the Fire, poet Charles Bukowski encapsulated an all too familiar manifesto for growing old.

What nearly kills us strengthens us. What we lose brings into clear focus what we have. Clichés for living through the middle distance that, like all clichés, have become worn and ubiquitous because they are true.

Waldo Canyon restoration continues this weekend on Saturday with an effort from Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
 

The project looks to help protect nearby water supplies, infrastructure, and Highway 24, by working on a number of erosion control issues, including dead tree removal, sandbagging, and reseeding grass and trees.

Volunteer for Outdoor Colorado spokeswoman Jessica Von Duerring says it’s part of an ongoing effort to help restore the burn scar.

Impacts from rains like Wednesday’s downpour in El Paso County are lessened due to mitigation work that’s taken place.  KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.
 

Williams Canyon is getting new rain-monitoring equipment from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the US Geological Survey. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports on the installations taking place this week.
 

The new equipment looks to complement the devices installed in Waldo Canyon last year, and are intended to allow CDOT to see the progression of floods as they move toward Highway 24. The new gear includes a real time video feed camera, a remote radar gauge, and an additional rain gauge.

Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association

Next Wednesday marks the one-year anniversary since the start of the massive Black Forest Fire. The blaze scorched over 14,000 acres, destroyed around 500 homes and killed two people.

The non-profit Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association says after revised estimates of loss, the fire is now the second-costliest wildfire in state history.

RMIAA director Carole Walker says the initial estimate of $292 million has been increased to $420 million dollars in losses. 

A Sense of Place, Episode 4: The Fire Isn't Over

Jun 4, 2014
Sarah Stockdale

“The fire isn’t over until restoration is complete” is a catch-phrase that has been floating around Colorado Springs ever since our two most recent fires in 2012 and 2013. But what exactly is “restoration”? When will it be complete? And what is our role in the fight to mitigate future fires? In this episode of “A Sense of Place,” producer Sarah Stockdale takes us on a journey up highway 24 to the Waldo Canyon burn scar, to speak with Theresa Springer of the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, and Eric Perramond, associate professor of Southwest Studies at Colorado College.

U.S. Forest Service

Forest Service land closed due to the Waldo Canyon Fire will remain restricted for some time. KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports.

The US Forest Service has extended closure orders, saying the canyon requires more maintenance and time to re-grow. The area to remain closed includes the Waldo Canyon Trail along Highway 24. Work there is expected to continue through the summer. There is a maximum 5,000 dollar fine in place for trespassing in the closed areas.

Bryan Oller

Last week, I interviewed Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder and KRCC News Director Andrea Chalfin about mitigation efforts related to the Waldo Canyon burn scar flooding. In this second part of the interview, I speak to Snyder about cleanup efforts and plans for next summer. Tune in tomorrow to hear the final part of the conversation about the future of Recreational Marijuana in Manitou Springs.

Andrea Chalfin


Efforts continue all across the Waldo Canyon burn scar to help reduce the effects of flooding.  Colorado Springs Utilities expects to wrap up initial work in the Northfield Watershed on Rampart Range within the next month or so.  But Project Manager Kim Gortz with Utilities says it’s really an ongoing effort.

"Hayman’s still seeing issues 10 years post-fire, so I think we’re starting in our planning phase as far as what do we do for long-term restoration, what do we do for monitoring each time we have a monsoon season."

Bryan Oller

Local Freelance Photojournalist Bryan Oller took some of the most memorable photos of the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, and he’s been covering the flooding in Manitou. I spoke with him about the challenges of documenting disasters so close to home.

Flood Survivor Tells Harrowing Tale

Aug 14, 2013
Liz Ruskin

While Manitou Springs authorities celebrated finding one survivor, another Manitou flood victim, 49-year-old Laura Hunter, told reporters Monday at Penrose Hospital she’s thrilled to be alive. KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports.

Hunter was in her small cottage in the 500 block of Canon Ave. when water started quickly pouring into her living room.

Andrea Chalfin

Flash flood watches and warnings peppered the weekend in the Pikes Peak region, with skies darkening ominously as thunder and rain rolled in each afternoon.  Last night’s warning was canceled early, and Highway 24 and Manitou Springs were spared a repeat of Friday’s devastating flooding.

Jane Turnis

Update: 11:20PM:  The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is reporting the body of an adult man has been found along Highway 24 near mile marker 297.  They report the body was buried under a significant amount of debris along the westbound lanes of the highway.  No identification is available at this time.   

10:25 PM:  Highway 24 is now reopened, with one lane in each direction.  

Sandbags will be available to homeowners facing impacts from potential flash flooding in and near the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  They'll be given away free at the Verizon Wireless building on Garden of the Gods Road from 8 - 2 Saturday. The sand comes from last week's Olympic Downtown Celebration and its sand volleyball pit.

Colorado Springs and El Paso County officials have released updated flood maps for areas in and near the Waldo Canyon burn scar.  The maps detail expected flood effects after one-hour rainfall amounts of a half-inch up to two inches of rain.  The assessments assumed debris in floodwaters would cause blockages at street crossings.  Maps include Ute Pass, Manitou Springs, and Fountain Creek.  Douglas Creek maps have not yet been updated.  There’s a preparedness meeting tonight at six for residents and businesses along Fountain Creek at Al Kaly Shrine.

Forecasters say the storm over the Waldo Canyon burn scar yesterday that produced flash flooding through Williams Canyon was quick-moving and dropped six-tenths of an inch of rain in about 15 minutes. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin has more.

Manitou Springs city officials were quick to praise education efforts and first-responder cooperation, but Police Chief Joe Ribeiro acknowledged the city’s warning siren didn’t work correctly.

Wildfires and Climate Change Perception

Jun 28, 2013

Though wildfires have been definitively connected to climate change, megafires in the West haven’t shifted public opinion as drastically as environmentalists might hope.

 

Researchers have found that repeated wildfires in the same region do tend to shift public opinion about climate change, so with back to back summers of megafires the Pikes Peak region may see greater interest in the effects of increased warming.

The Double Bind: Forest Treatment In The Age of Megafires

Jun 27, 2013

The devastating 2002 wildfire season generated public discussion about the need for treatments to fix our dangerously overgrown forests. A decade later, the Front Range has been hit with consecutive record-setting fire seasons, which has a lot of Colorado residents wondering why more of that treatment hasn’t happened. In this story that originally aired in April, KRCC’s Michelle Mercer looks into the status of forest treatment on the Front Range. 

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