More mandatory evacuations were issued Tuesday and the pre-evacuation areas have been extended into Douglas County as the Waldo Canyon Fire rages on.
The blaze was estimated at 18,500 acres in size including neighborhoods in northwest Colorado Springs, officials said early Thursday.
A firefighter told a Gazette newspaper reporter that firefighters were informed during a Wednesday briefing that 200 to 300 homes have been lost in the fire. The firefighter said it was difficult to be accurate about the number of homes lost because of the extreme devastation of the fire.
No official estimate of homes lost has been released.
At least 32,000 people have been evacuated in Colorado Springs, not to mention Woodland Park and Crystola, as the wind-driven fire exploded into several neighborhoods, destroying countless homes.
The fire is still raging out of control and another huge plume of smoke was billowing from the mountain range west of Colorado Springs as heavy wind gusts blew through the area just after 3 p.m.
Firefighters were preparing to protect homes in the path of the fire.
"All companies be prepared to engage," a fire commander radioed to his crew at about 3:30 p.m.. "We are not going to spray water on the fire. We are going to protect structures"
"Wind is a big factor in how we do this fire," said Incident Cmdr. Rich Harvey during an afternoon media briefing. "It's one of the reasons why it's difficult to fight. We can't seem to figure it out.. it won't stay in the same place. The winds keep shifting on us."
"We have seen good progress as terrible a day as yesterday was," said Gov. John Hickenlooper at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. "I don't think anyone can remember a time or a single day where we had such a dramatic turn of events."
Mandatory Evacuation Areas
Just before 1 p.m. the town of Crystola, both El Paso and Teller County, was ordered to evacuate.
An hour earlier, the city of Woodland Park ordered mandatory evacuations for the following areas:
-- East of State Highway 24 from Crystola to Baldwin Street/Rampart Range Road to the Teller County Border at Loy Creek.
-- West of Highway 24 and South of Aspen Garden Way, Rodeo Way, Ranch Drive, Mane Street, CR 231/West Street intersecting Highway 24, West on Highway 24 to Edlowe Road, and South on Edlowe Road, to include the subdivisions of Ranch Estates and Holiday Hills
-- All residences North of a line from Crystola to Catamount Estates (off of CR 281)
On the Woodland Park side, an evacuation shelter was set up at the Cripple Creek and Victor High School.
The remainder of Woodland Park is under a pre-evacuation order -- meaning be ready to evacuate on a moment's notice. All Areas East of CR25 (a.k.a Tranquil Acers Road and Mocks) to Blossom Rd. including the subdivision of the Tranquil Acers, North to the intersection of Forest Service Rd. 357 and 357b, North on FSR to CR78 (a.k.a. Painted Rocks Rd.), North to the Douglas County Line are on pre-evacuation notice.
Officials have also issued pre-evacuation orders for portions of southwestern Douglas County.
The specific area is bounded by the Palmer Divide Road on the south, Noe Road on the north, Spruce Mountain on the east, and Rampart Range Road on the west.
Douglas County Pre-Evacuation Map
The areas of Woodland Park that have not been previously evacuated are on pre-evacuation notice. That includes all areas east of CR25 (a.k.a. Tranquil Acres Road and Mocks) to Blossom Road, including the subdivision of Tranquil Acres, north to the intersection of Forest Service Roads 357 and 357b, north on FSR 357 to CR 78 (a.k.a. Painted Rocks Road), north to the Douglas County Line.
Residents in the affected area need to make immediate plans for the evacuation and care of family members and animals, officials said.
The Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock can accommodate evacuees and large animals should an evacuation become necessary. Residents are urged to gather important documents, medications, and important personal effects so that they will be immediately available should conditions deteriorate, said Sgt. Ron Hanavan of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Evacuations remain in place for northwest Colorado Springs and parts of the Air Force Academy campus.
The fire had burned about 10 acres on the southwest corner of the Air Force Academy grounds. (Read full story.
"We had active fire throughout the night," said Lt. Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office during an interview with 7NEWS.
Aerial Video Shows Neighborhoods Devastated
Kramer said firefighters worked through the night trying to safeguard structures.
However, multiple homes have burned in the Mountain Shadows community in the western foothills, fire officials said.
This picture of homes burned, homes that survived was taken Wednesday morning, June 27.
Officials would not provide an early estimate, but viewers who had relatives fighting on the front lines say that at least 100 homes have been destroyed.
Airtracker7 flew over the Mountain Shadows community Wednesday morning and found an eerie scene where some homes were burned to the ground while others right next to it stood untouched.
"There are some homes impacted, no question about it," said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown. "I am absolutely not prepared to release that number. We don't know the number. Again this is an active fire, it's not even remotely close to being contained."
Brett Waters of the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management said a team has been formed to go in and find out which homes were destroyed, but that process could take time as the fire continues to burn in the area.
Weather To Challenge Firefighters Again
The fire erupted Tuesday when erratic winds gusted to 65 mph and pushed the fire past two containment lines.
Firefighters expect more high winds Wednesday.
"We expect further trouble from the weather today," said Incident Commander Rich Harvey said on Wednesday. "The wind can come from any direction and at any time."
Areas with the most serious flash flood potential include Manitou Springs and old Colorado City, especially below the Williams Creek and Waldo Creek drainages, experts said.
The massive fire sends a dark plume of smoke over the city.
Thousands Of Firefighters On Front Line
About 1,000 firefighters are on the front line.
"We are working with the military," said Jerri Marr, supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest. "As a matter of fact we got them out there in the dozer lines out there right now ... to get the fire contained."
Evacuation shelters were set up on both sides of the fire.
Red Cross Evacuation Centers are at Cheyenne Mountain High School, Summit Elementary School in Divide, Lewis Palmer High School in Monument, and the YMCA.
The Red Cross has established a number for evacuees at 719-632-3563.
There are several community information lines, available 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for people with questions about the fire. These numbers are to the joint information center: (719) 520-7058; (720) 402-7935; (720) 202-4510; (720) 237-9947: (720) 237-3417
Hickenlooper Says State, Feds Working Together
During an afternoon news conference, Gov. Hickenlooper told reporters that a dual command structure is helping coordinate firefighting efforts.
"We began a process of setting up dual -status command to make sure we have synchronized chains of authority so we can use military assets efficiently,"he said. "Theyre training a battalion of soldiers at Fort Carson to help in active firefighting, to help in mop up so they can relieve more experienced firefighters so they could go into active firefighting."
Hickenlooper told reporters he's gratified by the support the state has received.
"The one great thing we've heard again and again is ... The support from around Colorado and from around the country has been universal"
FBI, ATF Helping With Possible Criminal Investigation
Both the FBI and the ATF are at the fire command post, vetting information and assisting authorities with their search for the cause of the fire.
No cause of the fire has been determined.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office asked people to call a tip line -- 719-477-4205 -- with any information about how the fire started. Anyone who was around Waldo Canyon or Pyramid Mountain on Friday or Saturday is encouraged to call.
GeoMAC Fire Map Updated From Overnight Infrared Info
View Larger Map
To see this map in movable Google Earth, change the source in the upper right of the map to "Earth."
State Farm Insurance Information
Newly evacated residents impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire and insured with State Farm are encouraged to contact their agent right away -- even if they dont know yet whether their property is affected by the wildfire.
Policyholders can also begin the claims process by calling 1-800-statefarm (1-800-782-8332) or by going online at www.statefarm.com. State Farm claim representatives are onsite to assist policyholders at the following locations:
-- Cheyenne Mountain High School 1200 Cresta Road Colorado Springs, CO
-- Southeast Family Center/Armed Services YMCA 2190 Jet Wing Drive Colorado Springs, CO
-- Lewis Palmer High School 1300 Higby Road Monument, CO
As this fire continues to spread and new evacuations are being called we remain at the evacuation centers to be available to our customers, said State Farm spokeswoman Angela Thorpe. Customers who have been evacuated should contact us as soon as they can and hold onto their receipts.
The State Farm homeowners policy provides temporary living expense coverage for homeowners required to evacuate, such as motel and food expenses, subject to their policy deductible.
State Farm is the largest insurer of homes and vehicles in Colorado.
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