Commanders optimistic for today

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Black Forest Fire
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Tents set up at Pine Creek High School house dual command set up by the military.

Officials expressed optimism today at the first briefing of the day for the Black Forest Fire.

"I'm feeling much better today," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said. "What I witnessed was very encouraging compared to the previous night. It was that turning point we were looking for."

Incident Commander Rich Harvey also said firefighters had a good night, held the lines and helped law enforcement keep an eye out for burglars. "We're certainly moving toward turning a corner," he said.

The fire was still described as over 15,000 acres, while 93,000 acres have been affected, which includes evacuation orders. About 38,000 people have been displaced by the fire, which has destroyed 379 homes.

Springs Interim Fire Chief Tommy Smith said the city is working closely with the Type 1 firefighting team "in case it does come into the city." The city issued its first mandatory evacuation order of Flying Horse subdivision yesterday.

The fire remains only 5 percent contained.

Meanwhile, National Guard Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback said the military is happy to be part of the fight. "It's great to be serving Americans," he said.

Harvey has not disclosed how many additional resources the team has requested, if any. Responding to the Independent's question last night, he said the Type 3 team in place prior to his arrival had asked for some resources, which he didn't disclose, and he was sorting through that to determine what additional assets were necessary.

Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado issued a statement about the military dual command:

"I am pleased to hear that Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Peter J. Byrne has been appointed the Dual-Status Commander to combat the Black Forest Fire. He will provide command and control for all military forces (Active, Reserve & Guard) that are bravely fighting against the fires. This will make coordination and management much easier, as well as promote efficiency.

"I am working hard to make sure that we have the proper equipment and personnel to contain these wildfires. At this time, two C-130 aircraft, from the 302nd Airlift Wing, equipped with Modular Airborne Firefighting Systems (MAFFS) are being utilized to help with control and containment.

"Personnel, trucks, and aircraft from Fort Carson, Peterson Air Force Base, Buckley Air Force Base, the Air Force Academy and the Colorado National Guard are also assisting in the firefight.

"All of this help from many different places is making a difference and I am very grateful to all of our brave men and women who are working very hard around the clock to save lives and property."

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