Waldo aftermath

The Waldon Canyon fire destroyed 347 homes and killed two people in 2012. The aftermath in one subdivision.

Westside Watch, a coalition of homeowner associations and Westside neighborhoods, has launched a campaign to keep evacuation planning at the forefront of the City Council agenda.

The group formed amid debate over a 420-unit apartment complex proposed at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road, an area that became a chokepoint during the evacuation when the Waldo Canyon fire swept into the city in June 2012.

That project was rejected by Council recently, as we reported here, setting the stage for what might evolve into a different set of criteria for development approvals. Some say don't hold your breath.

Part of the opposition's strategy in the 2424 case was to flood Council with scripted emails, demanding that traffic congestion and evacuations be taken into account. 

Now, Westside Watch is encouraging followers to do the same, suggesting people send emails to Council and the mayor that say:

Dear Mayor Suthers & City Council, 

We respectfully request that you.
  • Begin conducting city-wide custom traffic evacuation studies every 5 years.
  • Keep those studies fresh and current by implementing the usage of the FREE FLEET evacuation modeling software, and report our clearance evacuation times to us as well as publish the route maps for various scenarios in the event of a wildfire or other emergencies.
  • Use these tools to evaluate the impact of future developments in our high risk WUI neighborhoods.
Our safety should be your number one concern.  We elected you to vote in our best interests.

[resident's name]
Westside Watch includes people who live along the city's western flank, where thousands of homes lie within the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI). Those neighborhoods include The Spires, Broadmoor Bluffs, Cheyenne Cañon, Harlon Wolfe, Kissing Camels, Rockrimmon, Old Colorado City, Cedar Heights, Mesa Springs, Piñon Valley, Shadow Valley and Mountain Shadows.
The city has preached for years that residents need to take home-mitigation steps including removing tinder and brush, cutting back trees a good distance from eaves and, when building the home, using fire-resistant materials. These steps help firefighters defend homes against fire. But not enough has been done.
Hence, the city proposes to use $20 million in revenue collected above the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights cap to set up a WUI fund for mitigation and other tasks to "harden" structures against wildland fires.
The measure will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
The Westside Watch email blast says despite the 2424 Garden of the Gods victory, "Questions Remain Unanswered."  

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.