Fighters made significant progress against the horrific wildfire that began on Tuesday in Black Forest which has destroyed approximately 500 homes affecting thousands of residents, leaving two people dead. The fire is now 30 percent contained.
Black Forest is a one of the nation’s largest heavily populated areas of ponderosa pines. This once rural area is now home to million-dollar properties and gated communities. Firefighters were thankful for those who kept the areas surrounding their homes clear, but with this fire even that could not save some homes from the raging blaze.
On Friday, firefighters were thankful for an unexpected rainfall which helped retard the speed of the fire. Fire crews were able to gain 30 percent containment of the blaze which allowed them to lift evacuation orders in neighborhoods east, north, and west of the fire.
According to El Paso County Sheriff, Terry Maketa, it is a fight and they got their tails kicked for a couple of days. He saw Thursday’s efforts as a “draw” and Friday, well, “I think today we delivered some blows and we’ve got some good news to give out.”
Although this fire will go down in history for Colorado as one of their worst with 500 homes destroyed and two dead, firefighters felt they were better able to handle this fire because of their experience with the Waldo Canyon Fire on last year, another devastating blaze that destroyed hundreds of homes, affecting thousands of people and leaving two dead.
Officials in the area have already started hand-counting destroyed properties and getting information to anxious homeowners. They learned from their Waldo Canyon experience how to cut through the red tape and get the resources necessary for the people and for the manpower to fight the fire.
El Paso’s emergency operations center solicited the assistance of aircraft from the nearby Peterson Air Force base. Rep. Doug Lamborn contacted the federal center in Idaho, that oversees western firefighting and speeded up the process of getting aircraft, and Governor John Hickenlooper called up the National Guard, who helped secure evacuated areas.
With memories of last year’s blaze and the knowledge of how fast it spread, deputies began knocking on doors of resident’s miles away from the fire, which was wise because the fire quickly spread through the area, doubling in size overnight. The bodies of the two people recovered, appeared to be on their way out. They were found in their garage with their car doors open.
Unlike the Waldo Canyon residents, who spent days wondering if their homes were burned, Maketa’s deputies have been going in at night surveying the area and notating which homes were destroyed and releasing this information to the affected homeowners within a day.
The rainfall made a big difference in their fighting efforts and ability to get 30 percent containment.
“I’m soaking wet and I’m a little chilly, but I’ve never been so happy to say this.” Governor Hickenlooper said.
Firefighters in Colorado have also gained 40 percent containment on the Royal Gorge Fire and have lifted evacuation orders. Another fire, in Rocky Mountain National Park is 30 percent contained.
A fire reported near Rifle, is about a square mile and there were reports that it structures maybe threatened, but no number was given.
The cause of the Black Forest fire which has destroyed approximately 500 homes, left two dead and only 30 percent contained, has not been determined but authorities said that it was not due to lightning.
By: Veverly Edwards