Waldo Canyon Fire: Wildfire Near Colorado Springs Grows
As of Tuesday evening, 32,000 additional people have been evacuated including one-third of the households on Air Force Academy grounds.
As nightfall approached on Tuesday, houses were consumed by flames. An unknown number of homes have already been destroyed.
Ash rained down as I-25 was jammed with evacuees and firefighting equipment. Twitter erupted with photos, comments and thoughts for those who may live or have loved-ones that live near the explosive blaze. Witnesses described the blaze as an "apocalypse".
Due to the aggressive expansion of the fire, the pre-evacuation area was expanded on Tuesday for some areas near Woodland Park. Highway 24 is closed west of Colorado Springs and fire officials warned residents near U.S. 24 and the El Paso/Teller County line to be prepared to evacuate, The Denver Post reports.
Around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning the blaze began burning aggressively, according to 7News, and is now reportedly the highest priority fire in the nation, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Steve Segin said.
Fox31 reports that the fire has become a high priority, not because of its size, but because of the population it could affect.
The Colorado Springs Gazette reported 200-foot-flames near Cedar Heights this morning with flames only 200 yards away from homes.
The Haines Index -- a scale of 1 to 6 (6 being the worst) that firefighters use to rank fire growth potential in a region -- is at level "6" again Tuesday and into Wednesday, the same levels reached during last weekend's extreme fire growth.
Record heat, high winds and low humidity are making this fire a difficult battle for firefighters. "Monday was a tough day... tougher than Sunday," fire information officer Greg Heule said to 9News. "Ninety degrees, 25 to 30 mph gusts. No cloud cover at all."
High heat over the weekend produced a surge of new fires now burning throughout Colorado and also provided fuel and devastating growth conditions for the fires already burning. A total of ten major fires were burning over the weekend, all part of the worst wildfire season in a decade.
Approximately 600 firefighters are on the scene battling the blaze, according to InciWeb.org.
Residents interested in having their phone number added to the "reverse 911" for evacuation notices, are asked to go to elpasoteller911.org to register.
WALDO CANYON FIRE: Shelters have room for evacuees
3 a.m. This just in from Colorado Springs: "Due to the Waldo Canyon Fire emergency, Mountain Metropolitan Transit fixed route and FREX service will not be operating regular service on Wednesday June 27, 2012. Metro Mobility will provide only medical scheduled appointments. All fixed route, FREX and Metro Mobility bus drivers please report at your scheduled times for emergency service transportation. "
2:50 a.m. Firefighters continue their battle to save homes this morning. They aren't winning them all. Heard on fire radio: "We're not going to save this structure." "I just heard the roof collapse."
2:43 a.m. Weather Service: Colorado Springs remains under Red Flag Warning Wednesday.
2:34 a.m. From the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center: "Significant growth is anticipated with active fire behavior expected overnight."
2:14 a.m. "No signs of a fire in Ute Park," said Jackie Kirby, public information officer for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. "We can't confirm the fire crossed Centennial but firefighters did spot embers coming over at 5-5:30 (p.m. Tuesday)."
1:35 a.m. Wind is from the north-northwest according to fire officials on the scanner, pushing fire toward more homes in the city.
1:10 a.m. Hotel rooms are available in Manitou Springs, at the Cliff House (12 rooms), Comfort Inn (17) and Silver Saddle (12).
1:02 a.m. All Colorado Springs hotels appear to be booked, according to desk clerks at a dozen area hotels. South Denver Marriott said there may not be a hotel room in Denver available, due to the Waldo Canyon Fire and a big softball tournament.
12:49 a.m. On casualties, Maketa said deputies "haven't heard of any or heard of any suspected."
12:47 a.m. Maketa says security is tight in evacuated parts of the city even as firefighters work to save homes.
12:33 a.m. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says the fire remains "very active" west of Centennial from Flying W. Ranch to just past Vindicator.
12:28 a.m. Caravan of fire trucks and 28 firefighters left Pueblo at 9 p.m. headed here to help with fire.
12:05 a.m. Colorado Springs Utilities reports that the city's water supply remains safe to drink. Facilities not burned.
11:57 p.m. Clarification, Holland Park is evacuated ONLY west of Centennial Boulevard. Check here for an up-to-date map of evacuations.
11:38 p.m. According to scanner traffic, one of the most worrisome areas is just west of Flying W Ranch road, between Wilson Road and Wolfe Ranch Road.
11:23 p.m. Fort Carson has shelters available for Air Force Academy personnel, and their families, evacuated by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The Air Force evacuees can report to Fort Carson Gate 1. Also, the Red Cross reports that all shelters have plenty of room and even have nurses and crisis counselors on hand. Those shelters are:
* Lewis Palmer High School: 1300 Higby in Monument
* Cheyenne Mountain High School: 1200 Cresta Road
* Southeast YMCA: 2190 Jet Wing Drive
EL PASO COUNTY - The Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs has forced more than 32,000 people out of their homes and destroyed an unknown number of structures.
Several homes have burned in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. The total number of homes lost is unknown as of Tuesday night.
The fire exploded after winds in excess of 65 mph fanned the flames Tuesday.
Tuesday, fire officials last reported the acreage at 6,200 acres with 5 percent containment.
Gov. Hickenlooper joined Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach in a news conference Tuesday night.
"I don't think we've ever seen a wildfire like this in the history of Colorado," Hickenlooper said after flying over the 9-square-mile fire late Tuesday.
Governor John Hickenlooper also issued the following statement earlier Tuesday night:
"An unprecedented weather pattern of hot days and dry conditions has made our fire season among the worst ever. Federal, state and local authorities are working together to address the situation and we are doing everything we can to protect lives and property. If there was an executive order for rain, we'd sign it immediately, but what we can do now is provide support and resources to communities that are most at risk."
Tuesday night, Incident Commander Rich Harvey said the Waldo Canyon Fire is a "firestorm of epic proportions."
Harvey said crews will work through Tuesday night to battle the blaze.
The following are the areas under mandatory evacuation: