by Pam Zubeck
Colorado Springs officials are teaming up with other agencies to begin planning for the inevitable flooding that could occur following the Waldo Canyon fire.
At a news briefing this morning, the city's emergency management director Bret Waters said a task force has formed that includes the city, U.S. Forest Service and other agencies "to look at flood danger."
After losing 17,920 acres of forest land, there's not much left to hold the ground and keep it from turning into a mudslide.
Fire commanders reported that the fire was 70 percent contained this morning and has cost more than $12.4 million.
City officials also gave more updates to allow more people into their homes in coming days, and Colorado Springs Utilities continues to try to restore gas service. The Utilities Board, comprised of the City Council, will meet at 6 p.m. today for a briefing on restoration of service following the fire.
"Upper Mountain Shadows was a lot worse than we even anticipated," Utilities CEO Jerry Forte said during the news briefing this morning. He said contractors and workers from Xcel are assisting with the work of getting evacuated homes back on the gas system. But the heavily damaged fire area still has 350 service lines, he said, that have no meter and crews must dig up lines and cap them.
Council President Scott Hente said in an interview with the Independent that he and Forte have talked about the restoration effort and that the Council has said the first priority is to rebuild and discuss the money later.
"We know there's financial implications," he said. "We think there's some recovery money through federal disaster declaration. We're pursuing all of that. We have reserve funds to handle this for the time being, but I have to emphasize time being. We're replacing a lot of the utility systems in the burn area. The only marching orders to them were to keep really really good track of expenses."
One of those implications could be a rate increase, but let's hope disaster relief covers most of the bill.
Fire Chief Rich Brown also reminded people that fireworks are banned completely in the city and El Paso County. He said the police and firefighters will issue summonses to anyone shooting off fireworks of any kind, including sparklers. There are no public displays this 4th of July either, he noted.
Incident command operations section chief Chad Olson said the only remaining trouble spots on the fire are the north area in the West Monument Creek, Mount Herman Road and Farish Recreation Area, which he described as "real rough country."
However, he said the incident is "tentatively out of the woods."
Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer reported that the investigative team is on the ground trying to determine the point of origin and cause of the fire that began at mid-day June 23. The task force, led by the U.S. Forest Service, consists of the Teller and El Paso County sheriff's offices, Colorado Springs Fire Department, Colorado Springs Police Department, 4th Judicial District District Attorney's Office, the FBI and the Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives agency.
To watch a video shot by a firefighter to document the blaze in Mountain Shadows as it was happening, go here.
Meantime, the feds resumed flying C-130s after a fatal crash in South Dakota claimed the lives of two pilots on Sunday.
Here's the release:
The Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command announced that the C-130 Modular Airborne Fire-Fighting System fleet will resume operations today in support of the National Interagency Fire Center and its firefighters on the front lines in several states.
Operational flying was suspended for one day to review flying and safety procedures, in the context of what is known so far about the crash of a MAFFS C-130 while fighting South Dakota's White Draw Fire.
An official accident investigation into the crash is ongoing, with the support of everyone concerned. Next-of-kin of the casualties have been notified.
USNORTHCOM and its Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard aircrews and support personnel are fully committed to their critical joint mission of helping to protect lives and property in our homeland. In support of our NIFC teammates, we are resuming MAFFS C-130 launches and firefighting.