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Press briefing, 10:30pm, UCCS, Colorado Springs
(First comments missing from transcript; feed cut off; we’ll have audio later tonight at this link)…Work that’s being done on their behalf. I just want to review again a couple of things. We’re going to partner with El Paso county and open a recovery center on Saturday. The purpose of that would be to get the appropriate agencies in one place, like a one-stop-shop, if you will, so that the people that have been impacted by these fires can then get a lot of their questions answered. I want to thank the University of Colorado, UCCS, for providing their facility. We put this meeting together in a short period of time and we couldn’t have done that without them. And, we appreciate that. We’ll be here at 8 o’clock in the morning to brief you on the progress of the fire. But we wanted to be brief in this, then I want to introduce Police Chief Pete Carey for a few comments, but I want to thank you. You did a magnificent job tonight letting this be a personal experience for the people that were impacted by the fire and I just want to commend you for the way that you handled that–the media. So with that, Chief Carey”
Pete Carey, CSPD: “I want to start my saying that the repopulation of the evacuated areas we started at 6pm tonight, or announced at 6pm, is going well, no major concerns. Despite the heroic effort of our first responders, I have some sad news, Colorado Springs Police Department was given information which led to a search at 2910 Rossmere Street in the Mountain Shadows subdivision, that’s 2910 R-O-S-S-M-E-R-E, that residence was destroyed by fire. Unfortunately, remains of one human being was discovered in the debris. The search continues. We have informed family members. Initial information was that two adults were missing from that residence. This investigation is ongoing and I can’t make any further comments about it tonight. Thank you.”
Evacuation Areas Lifted at 8 p.m.
Residents in these neighborhoods can return home at 8 p.m.
Southeast area of Rockrimmon including Golden Hills and Tammaron subdivisions (southeast of Woodmen Rd./Rockrimmon Blvd. to S. Rockrimmon)
Kissing Camels (East of 30th street from Gateway Road to Garden of the Gods Road)
The apartment complex at Garden of the Gods Rd. and 30th Street.
All other areas remain under Mandatory Evacuation:
West of 30th Street from Gateway Road to Centennial
Rockrimmon (northwest of Woodmen Rd./Rockrimmon Blvd. and Vindicator)
7:18: Audio from the press conference on those evacuations that are lifted, recorded from KRDO’s live stream.
6:54pm Via Denver Post: “In a bit of good news, officials announced that a considerable number of evacuees would be allowed to return to their homes beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday. Evacuations are being lifted for an area west of Interstate 25 and south of Rockrimmon. Cedar Heights, Rockrimmon, Mountain Shadows and Peregrine remained on mandatory evacuations.”
6:40pm Evacuations are lifting/changing to pre-evac in some areas. We’re waiting on a press release from the city.
Waldo Canyon Fire Impact meeting
A meeting ONLY for residents of the streets below will be held tonight to inform them of the status of their homes.
Tonight, 8 p.m., Gallogly Events Center, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
6 p.m. Busses depart shelters
6 p.m. Check-in opens
8 p.m. Residents meeting begins
9 p.m. Press conference at media staging area with residents from the meeting who will give interviews.
This meeting is for residents of the following streets only. This is NOT a public meeting. Residents should bring identification to gain meeting access. Refreshments will be provided. Counselors will be available.
Residents of these streets should attend:
• Trevor Lane
• Linger Way
• Rossmere Street
• Tallesson Court
• Sandray Court
• Majestic Drive
• Ravina Court
• Regal View Road
• Stoneridge Drive
• Heartstone Lane
• Karamy Court
• Lionsgate Lane
• Hot Springs Court
• Jenner Court
• Brogans Bluff
• Darien Way
• Rayburn Way
• Braeburn Way
• Timora Way
• Mirror Lake Court
• Wilson Road
• Harbor Pines Point
• Yankton Place
• Chambrey Court
• Charing Court
• Ashton Park Place
• Courtney Drive
• Vantage Vista Drive
• Vantage Ridge Court
• Huffman Court
• Aubrey Way
• Van Reen Drive
• Alabaster Way
• Lannigan Street
• Capra Way
4pm Press Briefing (posted 5:35pm)
Greg Heule: “We’ll have five speakers this evening. We’ll have each one of them speak first and give their presentation and have them take question afterward just as we’ve done in the past. First up tonight will be Mayor Bach, Mayor of Colorado Springs. Next will be Brett Waters, Director of Emrgency Management City of Colorado Springs, Chief Carey, Colorado Springs Police Department, Jerri Marr, Supervisor Pike San Isabel National Forest and Comanche Nation Grasslands and Rich Harvey, Incident Commander for Waldo Canyon Fire. Mayor…”
Mayor Bach: “Good evening. We now know based on our analysis today that we have preliminarily 346 residences that have been destroyed. That is a preliminary number, certainly subject to change. And those residences are on 34 streets. And again, that’s a preliminary number, subject to change. We were not able to get into the area till until early this morning to begin the assessment, which had to be on foot. The smoke cleared to the extent that we could get in there and firefighters told us it was safe enough to get in there this morning. This was a very, very fast assessment that was done today to try to accelerate what we could say to the residents, so it’s very significant. I think you know that we’re going to have the meeting tonight at 8PM with residents on some specific streets. I believe you have the list of those streets (http://radiocoloradocollege.org/2012/06/waldo-canyon-fire-impact-meeting/). This is meeting for those residents only. We’ll ask them to show their identification. We’ll have the Red Cross there, chaplains, other counselors. My executive team and I will be there, my wife Suzie will be there. This is going to be a tough evening, but we’re gonna get through it. And, this community is going to mount an unprecedented response to this. Suzie and I are going to lead an effort to bring every possible resource to help all these people who have been hurt so badly. This is a very difficult time and I know that in your business news is everything; I respect that and I respect your responsibility to inform the public and I hope that you can join me in a little bit of humanity here tonight and respect these people who are going to find out tonight 347 homes are gone. Their lives’ dreams are gone. okay? So, you’ll hear more from other people; after that meeting we’ll come back over here and brief you in more detail. Any of the residents that want to talk to you, that’s their prerogative. I would appreciate you showing a little deference as they leave the meeting. Some of these people are going to have a very hard time, I think, with this. This community is going to surround them with love and encouragement and we will move forward as a city, better than we ever have. I’d like to ask Brett Waters, our Emergency Management Manger to give you more details… Brett… Steve you want to go next. Steve Cox, our vice chair of the executive committee is going to give you some details on the meeting.”
Steve Cox: “Thanks and good afternoon. The media briefing said that we would congregate over here for the citizens who were affected at 6 o’clock. That’s a go. We’ll actually start the check-in at 7 o’clock and the meeting will start at 8 o’clock. And, again, I’d like to reiterate what the mayor said, this is for the fire affected persons only. I do want to talk about that we will create a maps and that we will have dots on that map that will show the affected homes and to what level they’re affected. We will release that map right after, on our website, right after that meeting tonight. So, you’ll be able to get on there and have factual and accurate data. We will have buses leaving the evacuation centers at 5:30 this even to bring any folks that don’t have rides into the meeting. Just to reiterate what the mayor said, these numbers can change depending on fire behavior as we go forward, so thank you…”
Brett Waters, Emergency Management Director, City of Colorado Springs: “We have been evaluating mediatory evacuation areas throughout the day. We’re still working with incident command team. There’s currently looking at fire behavior at where our zones are. This is a very complex business as you manage personal safety and resident safety with also getting people back into their homes and getting a sense of stability because there is a large number, as we know, of people evacuated at this time. I’ll be back here at 6 o’clock to do another briefing with you, specifically on evacuation. We expect some significant lifting of mandatory evacuations on the east side of those evacuation zones. We’ll have more information at that time. I also want to give another website, there’s been an absolute outpouring, as the mayor’s talked about, of assistance for those who’ve been effected in this disaster. We also, including www.redcross.org, but also, www.helpcoloradonow.org, helpcoloradonow.org is also an area where others can provide assistance in this area. Thank you…”
Police Chief Pete Carey: “As we evaluate returning into areas that were previously evacuated, I ask a little bit of patience. There is going to be a lot of people trying to return home. Please bear with us. We have a pretty good game plan for that, so please bear that in mind. I anticipate there will be a number of criminal activities that have occurred in some of these areas. What I ask you to do is also be patient with the police department. The number to call is 444-7000, 444-7000 to report those things. We have some extra people standing by and online. I believe that there’s been a number, a small number, of those property crimes and other damage situations already called in and reported. So we’ll take care of them as they come in and people are hopefully allowed to return home. Currently, the police department is being inundated with requests to return to evacuated areas and it’s really something that we can’t do right now to any further extent, unless it’s an urgent situation, please don’t call the police department. And, let’s give Mr. Waters just a little bit of time to possibly adjust the evacuation zones. I want to repeat one more time what the mayor said, the media center for tonight will be here at the conclusion of our meeting with our evacuees and other people affected by the fire. We will return here for some comments. Thank you….”
Jerri Marr, Forest Supervisor for the Pike San Isabel National Forest and the Cimmaron and Comanche National Grasslands: “My heart is saddened today, because this is a sad day for a lot of people. As they’re going to hear about what’s going on to their homes and their communities and our hearts really go out to them. But on the other side of this is on fire. We made significant progress today. The weather cooperated with us today like it has in no other day since this fire started we made significant progress today on the west side and northwest side here. We were actually able to get firefighters on the ground today. And we just got a… we’re waiting to have folks come in… we’ve got all of our firefighters, our men and women, are coming in this evening… right now, just preliminary, before even hearing from them, we’re going to go ahead and increase that containment up to 10%, and I believe that number is going to rise as they start coming in. Tomorrow, the weather’s supposed to be very similar to what we had today and if that’s the case I believe that we’ll continue to make significant efforts in this fire. I know we see not nearly as much smoke today as we’ve seen in previous days. And, of course, yesterday with the wind blowing you can hardly see or even open your eyes out here. And, so looking at that, it’s real easy to think that ‘Oh, okay, we’re almost there. The fire’s out,’ but we still have a lot of fire out there on the ground. We still have a lot of fight in us and we’re going to continue to work until we get it all done. But, to talk more specifically about some of those strides that we had to day, I going to have our I.C. Rich Harvey come and talk to you about that. Thank you….”
Rich Harvey, Incident Commander: “As Jerri mentioned, it was a pretty good day out on the line for the firefighters. If you’ll let me step back to the map I can maybe elaborate on that a little bit. Division Alpha and Bravo are in really good shape (points to Hwy 24 on map). We had tomorrow to shift line what you see (stepped away from mic, hard to hear). We’ll combine division Alpha and Bravo into one patrol and monitor the situation… still have a spot down here above Cave of the Winds we can’t get to with ground personnel. We continue to hammer it from the air with helicopters… just try to knock the heat out of it. … stuff burn out of there… we’ve got solid eyes on that, both from the air and guys can see it from all different sides… Division Charlie and Delta, um, we’re making a slight change in our approach to that situation as a result of the weather. I talked to you about Powerline Road and our contingency line that we put in here. Dozer line, reinforced with evicerators and masticators, that kind of stuff to create a wide line. (Points to ridge above Crystola). What we’ve done though is because the reduced fire behavior we have two crews, five crews coming done from the top of this going direct and two crews coming up from the bottom of this going direct. We are directly one foot in the black, one foot in the green going after this edge of the fire (pointing to ridges northeast of Crystola) and still leaving our containment line (above Crystola) up here in place for Woodland Park and Teller county and some of that spread to the north. This (edge of the fire) is in patrol status. As you come up from division delta over to division lemma (pointing to fire area southwest around Rampart Reservoir) this line has been in place now and has been holding for two days, same with this right here. This spot fire (northeast of Rampart Reservoir) we were able to get crews and dozers into that spot fire today, supported with aerial assets. Specifically, a lot of MAFFS. The MAFFS activity has been up in this area. We will be leaving 70 firefighters out on the line there tonight in what we can spike camps. So, they will be sleeping and eating out there. Part of the reason for this spike camp is the travel distances and time back to our incident command post. So, we will be taking food and water and shelter and all those things out to the firefighters here to reduce their travel time and to allow them to focus their efforts out here on the fire. We’ve come around these smaller reservoirs and are heading out I call it the power line but there’s creek along this road, too. We have been able to keep the fire from affecting this power line. So far today. We have crews coming into it… have crews coming in from both sides (referring to Rampart Range Road on map). We making good progress and pretty comfortable with what they’ve done. We got a lot of assets deployed in division oscar. trying to catch this off. We’ve had no perimeter growth on this aspect. Crews are starting to head this way and crews are start to head this way to ties these remaining (unintelligible) off. At this time we’re calling it 10% contained. I’ve not gotten to the forces that are out there in to talk to them personally to get the updates and assessments. We’ve looked at it from the air quite often and we’re feeling very confident that we made good progress today. Very minimal fire growth and troops in good positions. Safe. No injuries to the firefighters today.”
4pm Press Briefing Transcript will be up ASAP. Andrea Chalfin will provide update at 5pm during All Things Considered.
Update: 1:59 pm THU
A meeting will be held tonight to inform residents in specific areas affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire as to the status of their homes. Location and time will be confirmed at today’s 4 p.m. media briefing. The meeting will be limited to only those residents in designated areas – this is NOT open to the public. Invited residents should bring identification to gain meeting access.
Also, if you are concerned about the status of your home, please register your address with the city by clicking here.
And, the Better Business Bureau warns of scams targeting aid efforts.
Update: 12:30pm. Rush Summary of Woodland Park Meeting
David Buttery, Woodland Park City Manager: “The fire that people have heard about that is near Crystola, half a mile below Rocky Top campground. Not a worry. Result of embers blowing into valley. Fire has been stopped. Don’t worry. Evacuations have happened in the east side of town. Woodland Park residents cleared the area in 2 1/2 hours. The decision to evacuate is not taken lightly. It was the right, safe thing to do. You residents made the evacuation extraordinarily easy. In the evacuated areas, your neighborhoods are secure. Law officials are doing a good job and you can be confident. There is concern that the media isn’t giving Woodland Park/Teller County enough coverage. No news is good news. Bad news will be conveyed immediately. The community of Woodland Park has huge respect for fire, snow and a lot of rain. Little has changed with the fire; it has grown a little. I’ve seen a lot of aerial assets helping to protect Teller County. Many forest divisions are patrolling your neighborhoods. At King’s Crown, a team from New Mexico is widening the line of defense, widening the dozer line. Communication is key. Talk to your neighbors. Not everyone has access to media. Talk to your neighbors about anything that you hear. Check on your neighbors. The primary concern: You, then property. The sheriff is hunting the arsonist that is in the area. There have been no new fire starts in two days; no new fire starts in Teller County. In Eagle Lake, a tent shed was lost, but nothing else. Firefighters saturated the area. There is a dozer line two ridges up from the one that just burned near Crystola. Fire seems to move one ridge a day. Rich Harvey, Incident Commander, said that he feels 80% sure that dozer line that ties from the ridge in Crystola to Rampart Range Road will hold. Wind has been a huge hinderance in the fight against this fire. Wind caused embers to fly over Rampart Reservoir and started a new fire. There is concern that if the fire pushes west from Rampart Reservoir, it could quickly get into Woodland Park. Main concern right now is the western edge of the fire near Rampart Reservoir.
A couple questions from the audience: “If Woodland Park is evacuated, which way should we go? 24 or 67?” Buttery: “Go where you have resources to stay. 24 is bigger, 67 is two-lane. You exit the evac area sooner by taking Highway 24 west. 24 west and 67 north are the exit routes. If anything changes on either road, the roads will be blocked.” Question: “What are the nearest resources for medical emergencies?” Buttery: “Woodland Park Hospital ER is still open. Peak Vista is open in Divide. Also, Buena Vista, Cripple Creek, and Denver the back way.”
David Turley, Mayor Woodland Park: “Just drove the fire line near Wellington Gulch and Rampart Range Road. Saw fire crews working on what was a third contingency line that goes up the ridge southeast of Crystola… it’s been graded to Rampart Range Road. Lots of equipment in the fire line in Rocky Top area. Many helicopter lifts. Two C-130s come in… did a drop on the ridge above Crystola, then drops of slurry on a north side of Rampart Range Road. A laymen’s view: we have a good line at Rampart Range Road. Met with the Incident Commander at Lucky 4 Road. Stores that are open for sure: Safeway, City Market, Grandmothers, Walgreens and the Chinese Restaurant.”
Per Colorado Springs: Traffic on Gold Camp Road beyond the intersections of Gold Camp Road and High Drive, and Gold Camp Road and Bonnie Vista Drive is restricted to local residents only for the next several days.
Press Briefing 8am Summary (posted 9:20am)
Greg Heule, Public Information Officer, Waldo Canyon Fire: “There will be five speakers this morning. Mayor Bach, City of Colorado Springs; Tommy Smith, Deputy Chief CSFD; Brett Waters, Office of Emergency Management City of Colorado Springs; Jerri Marr, Forest Supervisor for Pike San Isabel Forest and The Cimmaron and Comanche Grasslands; and Rich Harvey, Incident Commander.”
Mayor Steve Bach: “Hundreds of homes have been destroyed. We are assessing every address. People impacted are going through enough already, we have to make that we get this right. Process of assessing entire area happening. We’ll have number by 4pm, if not noon. Laying out a plan to meet with homeowners. We respect their privacy, hope you’ll do the same. The city if going to do everything in its power to help them. He and his wife Suzie will mount broadest possible community support. Lots of people and businesses are wanting to help. Offers coming in almost hourly from members of the community to help. They want to contribute products, money, offer to volunteer. You’ll see an unprecedented effort by a community to help those fellow citizens who have been hurt by this. If I leave you with nothing else, particularly those in shelters, anxious about your homes we’re join to get with you hopefully today, certainly tomorrow. Those of you who have lost property here. Concurrently, we’re going to be wrapping up this community-wide effort to help the people who have been hurt. Stress again that this is a unified command. Unified effort to get this fire out, to help people. I’m so impressed with the forest service, FEMA, state, county, all of our neighbors, up the pass all the way up to Woodland Park. We’re working closely together, seamlessly. No Colorado Springs firefighters or police offers injured at the this point, although they’re putting their lives on the line. I’ve been up their many times watched of this firefighter putting their lives on the line, same with police. Fortunately, no injuries. And we will work thourgh this assessment process as expeditiously as possible but I hope you can understand why it’s got to be methodical and very careful. Make sure we have, for every address, accurate information. Thank you.”
Tommy Smith, Deputy Chief with Colorado Springs Fire Department: “Reports last night that we didn’t lose any structures. We had several crews working throughout the night to… because the weather calmed down we were able to get inside and mop down some hot spots. We have cooperatives from Denver, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, all our mutual aid partners, worked throughout the night with us to make sure we didn’t lose any more structures. Today we’re expecting the weather pattern to be about the same. We should be able to get in and do the same stuff that we did yesterday. As of now, last night, we didn’t lose any more structures. Firefighters, we’ve been talking about this event for a number of years. I’ve been with the CSFD for 21 years and this something we’ve talked about for 21 years. As I was driving through the scene yesterday and the day before looking at the firefighters and police officers doing everything they can to protect property and homes, it’s amazing to me the effort they’re putting forward. And, like the Mayor said, this is a team effort by all the local surrounding departments. Denver area, they’ve sent us plenty of resources. One thing that I want to assure you of is that the firefighters and police officers will do everything we can to take care of this fire, make sure that we’re protecting property. And one of the stories that I heard last night from one of the firefighter as they go through the scene they’re looking at the building that were lost and they’re not saying that the homeowners lost their properties, the firefighter are saying that they lost their properties. We get into a firefight we believe it’s our responsibility to save as much property as possible and when we lose something, we don’t like that very much and we take it personally. So we’re going to put forth every effort that we can to make sure that we minimize and mitigate this as quickly as possible. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with us today and we’ll doing everything that we can to prevent further damage.
Brett Waters, Emergency Management Director of Colorado Springs: “A couple things we want to reemphasize: we’ve got questions on evacuations… let me address those right now. We have a couple things out. No new evacuations for the city of Colorado Springs. No changes to the mandatory evacuations that have been given out. As mentioned yesterday, there are pre-evacuation notices. Those are not mandatory, just to tell you to be prepared. Shelters are still open and have capacity. We want to make sure that word is out as well. As we go through the process of damage assessment, which we have a plan for, we have a plan for this issue, we want the media to respect the privacy of the individuals who have been impacted.”
Jerri Marr, USFS: “Yesterday was a good day for us on the forest, fighting fire. We were able to really make some great headway, and we’re really excited because today is the first day in 5 days we haven’t had red flag warnings. We’ve been standing out here and the wind has been hammering us just even standing here at this news briefing, it has been doing the same up in the forest. But today we’re not going to have that and the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate with us. We think that we’re really gonna make some significant headway today. I heard a story this morning, someone said you guys were talking about the fire going in so many different directions, are you discouraged by that, have you lost hope? Boy, I just want to let people know, we have not lost hope. At no point in this fire have we lost hope. We have nothing but hope and nothing but belief. Nothing but the the most professional folks in the world here, working on your behalf, and we’re looking forward to a good day today out there working on the fire. Rich is going to talk to more about some of the tactics that we’re taking and we hope to be able to talk a little more this evening about some of the successes that we’ve had today. So thanks. Rich.”
Rich Harvey, Incident Commander Waldo Canyon Fire: ” Yesterday, for us, was a good day. As you can see on the map behind me (see above), the green, which is area that the fire grew yesterday, is the smallest growth that we’ve had since this fire started, basically. As so, that’s partly due to the efforts of the firefighters. We’ve had strong winds the last three, four days. Red flag conditions. The firefighters have made progress, even in those windy conditions. They’ve been actively engaged on the line. Not just the firefighters assigned to the team, but as everybody has stressed, this all has been an inter-agency cooperative relationship. When I talk about the 1200 firefighters that we have out there, that does not include the firefighters from Colorado Springs, Cascade Volunteer Fire Department, all the up the Highway 24 corridor, lots of volunteer fire departments helping out. So, the 1200 that we have are supplemented by literally hundreds of local departments helping out as well and they’ve made good progress. Today, we are going to be incredibly aggressive on this fire. We have the first break in the weather that we’ve had since we’ve been here. We have the horsepower in place, now we’re going to go after it today aggressively. We will continue to make sure that firefighters have good, clear assignments. And, safe places to engage this fire. Anchor points, aerial assets to support them. You can see the little bit of smoke kicking up behind me there in the Blodgett Peak open space, we’re well aware of that. That has the potential to come down the hill towards subdivisions. The subdivisions below have structure protection engines in place. That fire’s being actively fought from the air with ground troops coming in to support those air assets. Would like to mention that I went to a public meeting last night up in Woodland Park and Teller County up there, and those folks, they’re up here (points to map) and some of them, a small percentage of that town is under an evacuation order as a precautionary measure. We look at where this fire has the potential to go and we communicate outlying jurisdictions to make they’re aware not only where it is but where it’s going. Those folks kinda wanted you all to know that you’re on our radar screen, your locals are taking good care of you up there and we’re keeping an eye on it as well. I wanted to also say that one of the places that we’re engaged on this fire is right in here (points to map) to stop that spread to the north and towards Teller County. Every area that you see in green out there as well as all the fire, we remain focused on the entire fire. We have firefighters all around all perimeters and they all have plans today to be out there engaged and continue to make progress on containment. The fire sits at 18,500 acres; we’re holding at 5% contained. But, we expect that figure to jump dramatically today, making progress as the lines hold throughout the day.”
Greg Heule: “One thing I’d like to add about Teller County in particular, at Summit Middle School they’re reaching capacity as far as an evac center, so they have opened up the Cripple Creek Victor High School as a secondary evac center. We’d appreciate getting your help in getting that word out.”
(7:25am) Next press briefing at 8AM. Summary to follow.
Aerial photos of Waldo Canyon Fire from the Denver Post here.