As many as 32,000 people were forced to flee homes and over 2,100 residents were evacuated from the U.S. Air Force Academy's grounds on Tuesday night as a devastating wildfire grew ferocious unexpectedly, racing through Colorado Springs.
A Reuters report said that from the vantage point of a command post about 10 miles from the path of advancing flames, the entire community of Mountain Shadows, a northwest subdivision, appeared to be enveloped in an orange glow after dark.
Since Saturday, the Waldo Canyon Fire has burnt down approximately 6,500 acres of dry timber and has grabbed the attention of many because of its proximity to landmarks such as the famed mountaintop of Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy.
During a helicopter circle tour into the city Tuesday night, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper noted that the blaze was one of at least a dozen burning throughout the state. He described the scene as like looking at a military invasion. Four people have reportedly died in Colorado wildfires so far this year.
On Tuesday, the raging wildfire swept over containment lines into Colorado's second-most populous city, claiming its first property losses. It has consumed an unknown number of homes on the town's outskirts so far, said reports.
According to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, 32,000 people had been evacuated from their homes, while an Air Force Academy spokesman said the evacuation zone included two communities of single-family homes on academy grounds housing civilian and military personnel and their families.
Reports said that Hickenlooper was consulting with Pentagon officials, while the Air Force Academy said in a statement that the military was preparing to dispatch up to 25 more helicopters to join the firefighters.
Meanwhile, authorities in central Utah found one woman dead Tuesday about 100 miles south of Salt Lake City, marking the first casualty in a blaze that consumed 39,000 acres of rolling hills covered by parched cheat grass and sagebrush.
Due to high winds and flames fanned by high winds, Utah's state Route 89 was closed for the second time, followed by the evacuation of the entire town of Fairview with more than 1,200 residents.
FoxNews reported that Colorado has undergone nearly a week of 100-plus-degree days and low humidity. It has sapped moisture from timber and grass, creating a devastating formula for volatile wildfires across the state.
When it's that hot, it just dries the fuels even more. That can make the fuels explosive, said Steve Segin, a fire spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.
How To Assist Colorado Wildfire Victims
Check out the two lists below, courtesy The Denver Post, to assist the victims and evacuees of the Colorado wildfires and to direct people who wish to make donations.
Available resources for fire victims & evacuees:
- Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association has evacuation checklists and claims-filing advice.
- El Paso County Sheriff's office: Register your landline/cell for reverse 911 evac orders or call 719-785-1900.
- For information on Waldo Canyon fire, call El Paso County Sheriff's Office at 719-520-7183/7069. For non-emergency enquiries, call 719-955-0742.
- SecureCare Self-Storage is offering 30 days of free storage at all its Colorado Springs-area locations. Call 1-877-907-1649.
- The YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region is opening its facilities to evacuees until further notice.
- The Red Cross in Colorado Springs is at 719-632-3563. Red Cross shelters for evacuees are at Cheyenne Mountain High School, 1200 Cresta Road and Summit Middle School, 490 Meadowpark Drive, Divide.
- Larimer County is providing fire updates and has a public information line, 970-498-5500 (8am-8pm).
- Rocky Mountain Health Care Services in Colorado Springs is offering shelter and will take small pets with evacuees, 310 S. 14th St., 719-641-2747.
How to donate:
- El Paso County Sheriff's office: Large animal shelter at Norris-Penrose Equestrian Center needs volunteers: 719-520-7773.
- Those wanting to donate money to the Red Cross can go here.
- Help Colorado Now, a partnership of Colorado Division of Emergency Management (CDEM) and Colorado Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (COVAD), has a list of donations needed and Fort Collins location for drop-off.
- The Salvation Army can take monetary donations; specify 'Northern Colorado Chapter - High Park Fire' or 'Northern Colorado Chapter - Waldo Fire:' 303-866-9216, The Salvation Army, 1370 Pennsylvania Ave., Denver, CO 80132.
For more information, click here.