City to recognize Waldo Canyon Fire Commemoration Day on June 26

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This photo was shot on June 23 about 7 p.m., abut 7 hours after a thin wisp of smoke appeared, sending firefighters scrambling to the Waldo Canyon area. - ETHAN BEUTE
  • Ethan Beute
  • This photo was shot on June 23 about 7 p.m., abut 7 hours after a thin wisp of smoke appeared, sending firefighters scrambling to the Waldo Canyon area.
This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the day the Waldo Canyon Fire sent a plume of smoke into the sky west of Colorado Springs, an ill-fated omen of what was to come.

The fire ultimately burned more than 18,000 acres, killed two people and destroyed 347 homes in the Mountain Shadows area when the fire swept into the city on June 26 and sent thousands of residents fleeing the city's northwest sector.

We published this account ("Misfire," Dec. 12, 2012) of what went wrong in the city's attack of the fire, but since then those burned-out areas have recovered and hundreds of new homes have been built to replace those that were destroyed.

Tuesday, City Council will adopt a resolution recognizing June 26 as Waldo Canyon Fire Commemoration Day. The resolution, according to a city news release, "urges all residents and businesses to reflect on the amazing efforts to respond to and recover from the Waldo Canyon Fire of 2012."

The release:
The Resolution also recognizes the recovery efforts that have taken place over the last five years to help Colorado Springs recover from damage caused by the fire and highlights the resiliency of the Colorado Springs community. Below is an overview of actions the City of Colorado Springs has taken since the Waldo Canyon Fire to recover from the fire and prepare for future wildfires.

Wildfire Education and Mitigation Efforts
· The Mitigation Unit has pursued and received millions of dollars in grant funding over the last five years that has gone directly to support vegetation reduction and fuel management, neighborhood chipping, education and outreach efforts. Funding and hard work since the fire has resulted in:
o 7,809 acres mitigated
o 2,304 tons of material removed from the WUI
o Developing relationships and working closely with 112 homeowners associations and community groups to address wildfire risk in the community
· City Forestry mitigated 300 acres of parks property totaling $1.4 million since 2013 to reduce the level of fire danger in City parks and open spaces.

City Expands Emergency Response Training and Building Requirements for Construction in Wildland Urban-Interface
· Since 2012, the City has conducted five wildfire evacuation drills in neighborhoods in the Wildland Urban Interface to give residents first-hand experience of what to expect during an evacuation and how to prepare their family and home.
· The City has conducted 228 training and exercises for City staff and local responding agencies to enhance interoperability during response operations.
· Just six months after the fire, a new Hillside Ignition-Resistant Ordinance was adopted by City Council in January 2013, outlining new requirements for building in the Wildland Urban Interface.
· Wildland training continues to be a high priority pre and post Waldo Canyon Fire as we incorporate partner fire departments to participate in training and exercises which improves interoperability.

Community Resiliency Marked by Significant Rebuilding Efforts in Mountain Shadows and Revegetation of the Burn Scar
· Eighty percent of homes damaged or destroyed in the Waldo Canyon Fire were rebuilt in less than 2 and a half years; today 92 percent, or 316 of the homes lost have been rebuilt or in the process of rebuilding.
· For those rebuilding in Mountain Shadows, plan review and permit fees were waived and inspections were expedited in order to facilitate the recovery process.
· The Waldo Canyon Fire Burn Scar has an estimated 70 percent revegetation rate. All recovery has occurred as a result of millions of dollars in federal, state, and local funding as well as more than 100,000 hours of volunteer work to plant grasses and trees, stabilize mountain slopes, protect against flooding and help people find ways to rebuild their homes.

Work Continues to Mitigate against Flash Flooding as Burn Scar Heals
· Following the fire, the City participated in several multi-agency studies to determine best practices for managing the increased threat for flash flooding resulting from the Waldo Canyon burn scar. In combination with several state and federal mitigation grants, the City of Colorado Springs invested approximately $30 million to construct flood detention and channel stabilization along North and South Douglas creeks and Camp Creek. These efforts will help prevent debris and sediment from entering the City’s storm-water system and reduce flooding concerns in western Colorado Springs

· Planning and design of a large detention pond at the north end of Camp creek in the Garden of the Gods Park is nearing completion with construction anticipated to begin fall 2017. This detention pond will capture sediment and reduce flows downstream in the Camp Creek Basin and reduce the size of the Camp Creek flood plain.

· As part of the City’s intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo, design has begun for a 2018 project that will address the concrete lined channel of Camp Creek along 31st Street to restore a large portion of the concrete channel to a natural vegetated channel which when complete will significantly reduce the floodplain along this corridor.
The Waldo Canyon Fire, which began June 23 and was declared 100 percent contained 17 days later on July 10 burned a total of 18,247 acres and devastated the Colorado Springs community, taking two lives and destroying 347 homes.


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