COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – The Waldo Canyon Fire in the Colorado Springs has grown to 15,324 acres and destroyed an undetermined number of homes. Now the FBI is investigating how that fire started.
The FBI Denver Division is working closely with local, state and federal law enforcement to determine if any of the wild land fires resulted from criminal activity.
About 20 firefighters from Fire Station 7 in Denver who helped fight the Waldo Canyon Fire overnight said an estimated 300 homes have burned to the ground.
“I’m a vetern of 20 years and it was like a movie scene,” said Denver Firefighter Lt. Mike Somma, who led a crew that battled the blaze overnight.
“The whole side of the mountain was on fire. That’s the only way I could describe it to you,” said Somma.
He said the Denver crews had one mission: save homes. Somma said they would turn on sprinkler systems and garden hoses to help quell flames and toss patio cushions away from homes to kill potential fire sources.
“One house burned to the ground, another would be standing then the next one was on fire,” said Somma.
Teller County Wednesday morning announced new evacuation orders. The evacuations include Crystola and east edge of Woodland Park, all areas east of US 24, Baldwin and Rampart Range roads and south of Aspen Garden Way.
An evacuation shelter is being established at the Cripple Creek and Victor High School.
Tens of thousands are evacuated because of the fire, which started on Saturday but began burning homes in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood Tuesday night.
“This is an active fire. It’s not even remotely close to being contained,” said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown Wednesday morning.
Approximately 26,000 people were evacuated on Tuesday, an unprecedented emergency action for the city.
Tuesday night new evacuations were ordered for Rockrimmon and Woodmen Valley, west and north of Woodmen Road and Interstate 25 and west and north of Rockrimmon Boulevard and Vindicator Drive. Also under evacuation orders is Pinon Valley and Pine Cliff, west and north of Garden of the Gods Road and I-25 to Centennial north to Ute Valley Park. The Air Force Academy ordered evacuations for more than 2,100 residents on its grounds.
A pre-evacuation notice is also in effect in the southwest corner of Douglas County as of Wednesday morning due to the fire. (The specific area included in this pre-evacuation warning is bounded by the Palmer Divide Road on the south, Noe Road on the north, Spruce Mountain on the east, and Rampart Range Rd.on the west.)
“All of our people have been fighting that fire all night long. They are fighting it as we speak. And the thing that I want to highlight to you all is this is not a defensive situation to any stretch. There are countless examples of house saves. There are some homes impacted, there’s no question about it. I am absolutely not prepared to release that number. We don’t know the number,” Brown said.
On Wednesday officials said they are working hard to keep the evacuated neighborhoods safe.
“The affected neighborhoods will be protected by our police officers both at traffic control points and by officers in vehicles,” Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said.
The Red Cross shelter at the Cheyenne Mountain High School is open. Residents can bring small caged pets and companion animals (cats & dogs) with them to the shelter. The Penrose Equestrian Center is sheltering large animals.
Tuesday afternoon CBS4’s Rick Sallinger was taken on a tour of the fire along Highway 24 west to the town of Cascade. He reported seeing trees burning along side of the road. Spotters were seen chasing embers to keep the fire spreading to the other side of the highway. One ember did.
“It had a lot of potential of starting to spread on me right when I got up there and I had the rest of my crew bumping up there with tools and packs; bladder bags with water,” Bureau of Land Management firefighter Leif Larson said.
The fire’s cause remains under investigation.
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