Waldo Canyon Fire now most destructive Colorado fire on record

Friday, June 29, 2012
By Paul Martin

June 29, 2012

COLORADO – A fierce Colorado wildfire that has forced the evacuation of some 35,000 people while raging for six days at the edge of the state’s second-most populous city has destroyed 346 homes, Mayor Steve Bach said on Thursday, citing preliminary damage reports. If those figures hold up, the tally of lost homes in and around Colorado Springs would make the so-called Waldo Canyon Fire the state’s most destructive on record, surpassing the 257 homes consumed in recent weeks by a much larger blaze north of Denver near Fort Collins. While no deaths or serious injuries have been reported from the blaze so far, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said authorities were seeking the whereabouts of some people he described as “unaccounted for,” though he did not give a number. A police spokeswoman, Carrie McCuffland, said there were no specific reports from citizens of missing people, and that the unaccounted-for list consists of individuals who apparently neglected to register with the city or the American Red Cross as evacuees. “Every indication is that there are no casualties,” McCuffland told Reuters. Authorities earlier acknowledged the loss of hundreds of homes in Tuesday’s firestorm, but the damage toll released by the mayor at an afternoon news conference on Thursday gave the first firm picture of the full extent of the devastation. President Barack Obama plans to visit Colorado Springs on Friday to meet with firefighters and tour the ravaged zones. The grim news came as lighter winds helped firefighters battling to contain the inferno that had roared unchecked through residential neighborhoods in the northwestern corner of Colorado Springs and nibbled at the fringe of the U.S. Air Force Academy campus. The academy welcomed over 1,000 new cadets on Thursday, despite the fire, bringing them to a portion of the facility far from the smoke, base spokesman Harry Lundy said. For the first time since the blaze erupted on Saturday, a red-flag warning for heightened fire hazards was lifted for the Colorado Springs area. “We had a pretty good day on the line today. There was minimal fire growth,” incident commander Rich Harvey said. But anguish and frustration ran high among many of the estimated 35,000 residents who remained under evacuation orders. –Reuters

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