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"We now know hundreds of homes have been destroyed," Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach told reporters this morning at the morning briefing about the Waldo Canyon Fire, which has claimed 18,500 acres.
"We are assessing every address so we have absolute accuracy," he said.
The city plans to begin notifying homeowners who had properties that were "impacted" later today, and Bach promised a more precise number of homes lost by noon.
Meantime, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Jerri Marr said Wednesday was a good firefighting day, during which crews made "great headway." She also noted that today was not expected to be a red-flag day, defined as when high winds and heat work against firefighters.
Incident commander Rich Harvey said the fire saw its smallest growth since it began last Saturday. He said 1,200 firefighters are fighting the blaze, not including "hundreds" of others from neighboring departments who have streamed in.
"Today we're going to be incredibly aggressive on this fire," he said. "We have the horsepower in place."
Harvey said besides firefighters and engines, the team is using helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, track vehicles and military assets. "We have resources on this fire from an alphabet soup of agencies," he said.
Springs Deputy Fire Chief Tommy Smith credited some gains Wednesday to prior mitigation around homes, but both he and Bach noted there was little anyone could do on Tuesday when, as Bach said, "jumped two ridges" in a matter of minutes.
"This is a firestorm of epic proportions," Bach said, "racing down the down slope. It's an act of God. I don't know how else to put it."
"Yes," he added, "we've got a lot of loss of property, but we've got a lot that we saved." He also said mitigation needs to happen city-wide to protect against fires in years to come.
Bach also said he and his wife were working to set up a program that would provide help to the families who experienced losses in the blaze, with individuals and corporations clamoring to make donations.
"You're going to see in coming days an unprecedented effort to help those fellow citizens hurt by this," he said.
El Paso County's Citizen Service Center is closed indefinitely, but services are being provided in other locations. Details of where those services are available is here.
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