Fire is going to stick around

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The Waldo Canyon Fire will be around for awhile. That’s the word of Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey. At the morning progress meeting on June 26, Jerri Marr, forest supervisor for the local national forests and grasslands, said the fire made a run up Wellington Gulch.

“It ran with the topography up to Rampart Range Road and the Eagle Lake Campground,” she said. “We lost one tent cabin but no other buildings. No homes have been lost and we’ve had no injuries.”

“We have good containment at Cascade and Cedar Heights and now we have to connect the dots so we can get people back into their homes,” Harvey said. “The major focus today is Rampart Range Road and Rampart Ridge. The fire slopped over the road in a few places and we have crews working on those. We want to lock Rampart Ridge down and see where we can make a stand.”

He thanked the Cascade and Chipita Park/Green Mountain Falls fire departments for their work in Ute Pass. “They’ve been there 24/7 since the fire began,” he said.

He also gave other reasons for keeping U.S. 24 closed for the time being. One is that the highway offers a fast way for equipment to get to the fire. Another reason is that fire burned large timbers close to the highway and that might have destabilized the large boulders that hang over the road in the pass. Even without fire, those boulders are sometimes unstable, he said, adding, “One of our first priorities is the safety of the motorists.”

Infrared photography has shown the fire to be 5,165 acres with 5 percent containment. More than 600 firefighters are working the fire. “We’re asking for more firefighters, more engines, more helicopters,” Harvey said. “And we have three C-130s making runs with fire retardant. We use them on the ridges and use the helicopters in the canyons. We match the tool to the mission.”

Even with additional assets, the estimated full containment date is July 16.

In Woodland Park, Mayor Turley said businesses are open but citizens are watching the fire closely. He said deliveries are coming in to local gas stations and grocers.

He is meeting with other city officials, local law enforcement, fire departments and the sheriff and contingency plans are in place.

At a community meeting on June 25 at the Summit Elementary School evacuation center, Sheriff Mike Ensminger thanked citizens for their vigilance, which has kept arson fires from growing both in numbers and in size but he also cautioned people not to try to apprehend criminals. “Please leave that to the professionals,” he said. Anyone with information about suspicious people or activities should call 719-687-9652. Emergency calls should still go to 911.

Anyone who was in Waldo Canyon or the Pyramid Mountain area on June 22 or 23 is being asked to call 719-477-4205. Investigators are trying to gather information but don’t anticipate being able to get up to where the fire started for at least a few more days.

Fire information is available at http://www.inciweb.org/incident/2929/.

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