Fire on the Mountain - Page 2
“A very surreal sight”
The Waldo Canyon fire started on June 23rd. Before being contained, it claimed 18,247 acres of forest, 346 homes (and damaged an additional 50) and two lives. 32,000 people were evacuated from Colorado Springs and the surrounding area as images of a tower of fire and smoke cascading down the mountains and toward the city went viral online.
“The fire ranks as the most destructive fire in Colorado’s history,” says Bob Street of the El Paso County Search and Rescue (EPCSR).
Street says dry conditions and high winds were to blame for the fire’s quick spread. EPCSR Chief Larry Dunn noted that winds from a nearby thunderstorm prompted the firestorm that convinced O’Neill the race had to be canceled on Tuesday, June 26.
“Tuesday evening I was at the Blodgett Trailhead, a location popular with hikers and runners and location of many of our missions,” Dunn says. “There was fire on the ridges and slopes, torching, some homes still burning, and thick, thick smoke … a very surreal sight indeed, with a few homes still lighted, but mostly just our headlights and red and blue warning lights and the fire reflecting off the smoke.”
Friends of The [Pikes] Peak had a trail crew working on the south slope of the mountains when the fire erupted on the 23rd, according to the organization’s president, Michael Cotter. “We were not in any danger, but to see the smoke plume rise above Almagre Mountain was a sobering experience,” he says. “Based on the size of the plume and how quickly it rose you could tell it was a huge, fast-burning fire.”
Eventually, nearly all trails on the western edge of Colorado Springs were closed, including Barr.
“Obviously, the fires hit really close to home,” says Pikes Peak Road Runners President, Michael Shafai. “Our club and other running groups in the area conduct training and social runs on affected trails. One of our more popular club races, the Pony Express, is held in the Rampart Reservoir area, and judging by aerial views of that area, we may need to relocate that race, which is held in the fall.”
Shafai also says he is concerned about the diminished aesthetic value of the surrounding mountains.
“While most of the forest is still intact, it’s difficult to ignore the charred trees and brush in the foreground,” he says. “As trail runners who appreciate the glory of the mountains, we are sad to see such devastation.”