Skip to comments.Black Forest Fire: I-25 impacted by more evacuations; 360 homes & 15,000 acres burned
Posted on 06/13/2013 3:14:33 PM PDT by beaversmom
EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Colorado's most destructive fire continues to roar through the heavily wooded neighborhoods in Black Forest, and is heading toward the city of Colorado Springs, prompting officials yet again to expand the mandatory evacuation zone Thursday afternoon, now to include parts of the city of Colorado Springs.
The newest evacuations impact 1,020 homes and 3,000 people. Officials say University of Colorado at Colorado Springs will open as a shelter for evacuees within the hour.
The Colorado State Patrol also said at 2:30 p.m. that through traffic on northbound and southbound Interstate 25 from Interquest Parkway to Baptist Road should use the left lane. The right lane will be reserved for evacuees and emergency vehicles.
At 1:45 p.m. the city of Colorado Springs issued a mandatory evacuation order for:
- Northern Boundary: North Gate and Old North Gate Road
- Southern Boundary: Flying Horse Club Drive (to include homes south of Flying Horse Club Drive on Barossa Valley Road and Veneto Way)/Vine Cliff Heights/Equinox Drive/Serenity Peak Drive
- Eastern Boundary: Highway 83
- Western Boundary: Voyager Parkway
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office expanded its mandatory evacuation order:
- West to Sunhills Dr and Granby Rd
- North to Baptist Road including Fox Run Park
(See evacuation map below or click here if you're on mobile: http://ch7ne.ws/10agjgQ)
-- Fire destroys 360 homes, is rapidly growing --
Flare-ups started in the fire zone around 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
7NEWS reporter Eric Lupher was with animal rescue crews in the burn zone when they were told to leave.
"We're getting out. Just got a phone call that fire is blowing up. Unsafe to stay," Lupher tweeted.
The flare-up happened just three hours after the El Paso County Sheriff announced the fire had destroyed 360 homes.
Maketa said they expected high temperatures and high winds to be a problem today.
"We are watching the weather conditions very closely," Maketa said. "The wind is probably our No.1 threat. The winds yesterday really stirred the fire and pushed it in quite a few different directions. We saw the fire travel quite a bit and saw quite a bit of devastation from it."
There is a Red Flag Warning for the area Thursday, said 24/7 Chief Meteorologist Mike Nelson.
The fire has destroyed 360 homes and 14 other homes have been partially damaged, Maketa said during a Thursday morning briefing. Maketa said homes at 79 other addresses could not be verified because of downed trees and fire activity.
"Those numbers are pretty staggering," Maketa said. "Homes we knew were standing yesterday I personally witnessed going down last night."
-- View a complete list of the homes lost: http://ch7ne.ws/150n3dx
Maketa said about 20 deputies worked in dangerous conditions throughout the night to reverify that list.
"I know of two or three occasions where we actually had to pull our units out because they were getting trapped with the activity from this fire," Maketa said.
Last years Waldo Canyon Fire had been the most destructive fire in Colorado history with 346 homes lost. That fire started June 23, 2012 and evacuations peaked at 32,000 on June 27, 2012. The Waldo Canyon Fire, also in the Colorado Springs area, burned 18,247 acres.
Maketa said the Black Forest Fire has now burned 15,000 acres. There is no containment.
The evacuation area also expanded early Thursday morning to cover more than 38,000 people.
"We do have a very broad evacuation area," Maketa said. "That area to the north and what you're seeing coming out of Douglas County and Elbert County is precautionary because of the fact of the way the winds are expected to blow. We just want to take every precaution to keep citizens safe at this point."
Investigators have already begun work to determine how the fire started. Maketa said arson investigators have started sifting through the ash and looking at burn patterns.
"[It's a] very exhaustive and time-consuming process," Maketa said.
Maketa did share some good news. He said 1,205 homes in the Black Forest area remain unaffected. Some of the homes are in the burn zone.
"We see where homes were lost, they were completely losses, and its series 6-8-10, and then you'll have one standing home," Maketa said.
-- Colorado Governor says faster response is needed --
Gov. John Hickenlooper talked to reporters at Palmer Lake High School, where many evacuees are staying. The governor said he met with many of the families, some who had lost their homes to the fire.
Hickenlooper said valuable lessons have already been learned in fighting Colorado wildfires.
"The one thing we learn again and again: the sooner we get to them, the faster we stop them," he said. "It's got to be faster, we have to figure out how to get resources to a fire -- if it means more trucks that first hour -- that's when we got a chance."
Hickenlooper said the fire was "everywhere" within four hours of its ignition.
"To constrain it, you need more vehicles and work crews."
He said air tankers hit the fire "faster than last year."
"All we can do is fight. We just don't quit," he said.
I flew sailplanes out of the old Black Forest Gliderport from the late ‘70s until it closed in the mid-’80s. It was a very special place, and I spent a lot of time flying over the Black Forest to the north of the field. It’s heartbreaking to think of the destruction that is being wrought in that area.
479 homes destroyed (still counting).