Defense Update: Colorado Springs Fire (Updated)
Tech. Sgt. Jason Linta, Bobby Garza, and Dean Prestia cut lines to create a firebreak to prevent fires from jumping at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., June 28. Sergeant Linta is a firefighter assigned to the Air Force Academy and Garza and Prestia are firefighters assigned to Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
President Barack Obama has declared Colorado a federal disaster area, triggering federal funds to help fight High Park and Waldo Canyon fires near Colorado Springs, the state’s second-largest city.
The announcement, released by the White House shortly after midnight, came as the president prepared to assess damage today with state and local officials, who describe it as the worst in state history.
Air Forces Northern National Security Emergency Preparedness Directorate activated two Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers (EPLOs) June 27 to assist in wildfire suppression efforts in Colorado and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain and Southwest regions.
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Region VIII, one EPLO was assigned to Colorado State Emergency Operations Center in Centennial, Colo. A second EPLO was assigned to the Incident Command Post located in Colorado Springs, Colo.
The Waldo Canyon fire that has grown to 18,500 acres and burned hundreds of homes here has been contained on the southwestern corner of the U.S. Air Force Academy on June 28.
The fire had burned about 10 acres of land on the Academy in the early morning of June 27, but firefighters on scene have continued to successfully hold a fire line they established earlier in the day. Because of their efforts, no structures, including homes, at the Academy have been damaged by the fire.
Helicopters dump water on the Waldo Canyon Fire that has spread to the outskirts of the Air Force Academy, Colo., June 28. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
Yesterday, cooler temperatures and lighter winds helped firefighters in the battle against Colorado’s Waldo Canyon fire. It also marked the first day in five days when a so-called red flag warning – indicating conditions that could increase wildfire activity – was not being posted in the Colorado Springs area, authorities said.
Despite the weather relief, the Waldo Canyon blaze remained devastating and only 5 percent contained, officials said. Exceptional high temperatures and strong winds have fueled the blaze, which started on Saturday, according to Reuters.
Sadly, late Thursday authorities said a body was found in the debris of a burned-out home in the area, marking the first fatality from the blaze.
Police Chief Pete Carey said earlier that two people had been reported missing, and that a search was continuing.
President Barack Obama will tour the Colorado Springs area today.
A helicopter hoists water from the Air Force Academy water treatment plant to dump on the Waldo Canyon Fire June 28. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)
News Sources (Other than as indicated): DOD