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Officials at today’s Woodland Park Fire Update meeting devoted a significant amount of time to questions concerning the necessity and expected duration of the mandatory evacuation orders currently in effect throughout the city. While some residents complained that the evacuation seems excessive given the success of fire containment efforts in recent days, city manager David Buttery insisted that the order remains necessary.
While much of the Northwestern most section of the fire has been classified as contained, officials are still concerned about the Western front of the blaze. According to Tyler Lambert, Chief of the Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District, high temperatures, low humidity, and erratic winds generated by expected thunderstorms could possibly push the fire into the Sand Gulch area of Woodland Park in the next couple days. Due to the unpredictability that these conditions cause, and the fact that firefighters have not yet secured these areas, the city has decided to continue the mandatory evacuation until they can be absolutely certain that it is safe to return. However, Lambert expressed confidence in the readiness of his team to protect the city of Woodland Park if conditions do deteriorate.
Officials also addressed concerns of crime in evacuated areas, in response to reports of burglary in Colorado Springs evacuation zones. Buttery assured residents that there have been no reported incidents in Woodland park, adding that police are doing “constant patrols, day and night,” to ensure the protection of vacated homes.
Several residents expressed confusion regarding when and by what means they can expect to receive information about further evacuations or the downgrading of current evacuation zones to standby status. To this, Mayor Dave Turley replied, “You better believe that I’m going to be talking to the press if we can tell people to come home. We will talk with every channel there is if you can head back.” Residents can also find up to date evacuation information at inciweb.org, on the city of Woodland Park’s website, and through the reverse 911 and NIXL services. Anyone having trouble with any of the aforementioned outlets—or who is concerned about their ability to evacuate or receive current information—is encouraged to call Cindy Morse, City Clerk, at 687 5201.
Though the meeting primarily centered around specific logistical questions and reassurances regarding the unfortunate necessity of inconvenient evacuations, there was a prevailing sense of optimism about the competence of emergency teams on the ground and the quality of the Woodland park Community. In his closing remarks, Mayor Turley expressed this sentiment, “everyone should be proud of yourself. This is a great community. It is going to be important after this is behind us to come together, to make this an even greater community than it already is.”
Other important information:
The Teller County Sheriff Briefing is scheduled to take place today at 4pm (changed from its normal 7pm time), at Summit Elementary School.
Black Hills Utilities and Intermountain Rural Electric Association have contingency plans in place to turn off gas lines and other utilities if they are threatened by the fire. According to Dave Buttery, “Jim Ferguson of IREA tells us we are fairly secure with electricity at this time.”
Residents of Green Mountain Falls, Cascade, and Chapita Park seeking more information about these areas are encouraged to attend today’s briefing at Summit Elementary at 4pm. Members of these communities will likely be gathering after the briefing to share any information that they have.
Updated evacuation maps can be found on inciweb, as well as on the Teller County website: http://www.co.teller.co.us/
The brief power outage experienced in parts of Woodland Park this morning is not thought to have been related to the fire.
Pike’s Peak Regional Medical Facility is still open for emergencies, however all scheduled visits and procedures have been postponed until further notice.
For those interested in making relief donations, visit the Woodland Park city website and look for the “Pikes Peak Community Foundation.”