Colorado Springs releases final report on Waldo Canyon Fire

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A review of the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history found much to praise and few problems in the way Colorado Springs agencies responded.

The city's final review, released Wednesday, says first responders reacted in an "incredibly professional and heroic manner."

Officials now say the June fire destroyed 347 houses, one more than an earlier count. It triggered insurance claims of $353 million. Both totals are the worst for any Colorado wildfire.

The city's report praises the planning and training by city personnel and says agencies cooperated well.

It says the city needs better ways to quickly notify other agencies when fire managers make key decisions, and that more personnel should be trained in logistics to support emergency responders.

Investigators say the fire was human-caused, but no one has ever been arrested.


-- Report points out areas for improvement

The report, which was over 100 pages in length, pointed out numerous areas where the city and responding agencies could improve logistics, coordination and provide more disaster training.

Some of the problems identified in the report included:

- Providing more advanced training for first responders to help prepare them for any future complex incidents.

- Deploying more resources to prevent any residential burglaries such as those that occurred during the Waldo Fire. Add roving patrols of evacuated neighborhoods to increase police presence.


-- Evacuation zones not clearly defined

The report also highlighted how evacuation zone boundaries were sometimes muddled. The report stated, "evacuation boundaries were not always readily identifiable based on the cross-streets and borders of the evacuation zone."

The report described another issue with the evacuation process. It stated many times first responders were unsure on who had the power to enforce evacuation orders.

The report recommends that first responders be allowed immediate access to maps and decisions regarding evacuations.


-- No mention of missed reverse notification calls

The report failed to mention an issue with emergency notifications that 7NEWS previously investigated. Almost one third of emergency notification calls were not received by their intended residents.

During the nascent moments of the wildfire, over 32,000 emergency notification calls were made to residents with pre-evacuation and evacuation orders.

In all, the El Paso and Teller county dispatch centers made 48 separate rounds of emergency notification calls.

An audit of the reverse notification system and how it operated and handled its duties during the Waldo Fire showed that more than 9,000 calls were abandoned.

The report released on Wednesday morning made no mention of any failures in the reverse notification system or if it needs to be addressed.

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