Breaking News

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More people return to homes in Black Forest

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Black Forest Fire
  • Pam Zubeck
  • An earlier view of the Black Forest Fire.

Sheriff Terry Maketa said at a noon news briefing that he would allow re-entry to the Black Forest Fire burn area to 1,365 more people today. But about 2,600 people remain under mandatory evacuation as fire crews continue to snuff hot spots.

Fire Incident Commander Rich Harvey upped containment of the fire from 75 percent to 85 percent and said his team is starting to discuss demobilizing.

The fire has cost $7 million so far, Harvey said. Gov. John Hickenlooper allocated about $5 million on the fire's first day, and it's unclear whether he's added to that amount in light of the cost surpassing the original allotment. The fire isn't on federal land, so the state must pick up the tab, including the cost of Harvey's U.S. Forest Service Type 1 Team.

Maketa put the number of homes destroyed at 502 but predicted that would increase today as the El Paso County Assessor's Office advances its efforts to verify damaged homes.

Among those who will be allowed to re-enter today are residents of the Cathedral Pines area, among the most upscale of homes in Black Forest. That is to take place at 2 p.m., Maketa said.

As for areas along the most heavily damaged corridor of Shoup Road, residents will be allowed to visit their properties for three hours in shifts that will begin at 4 p.m., Maketa said.

Full containment of the fire is predicted for Thursday. For information, go to elpasoco.com.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Black Forest Fire 75 percent contained

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Firefighters have contained three quarters of the Black Forest Fire, which burned 14,280 acres, claimed about 480 homes and killed two people.

According to the latest fire report, full containment is expected Thursday. The firefighting cost exceeds $5.5 million, and 1,130 firefighters remain on the fire, along with 101 engines, five bulldozers and two helicopters.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa provided the following update for evacuations:

Most areas north of Hodgen Rd. are now under pre-evacuation.

To include (areas now under pre-evacuation):
South of Walker Rd.
East of Bar X Rd. and Highland Estates Rd.
North of Hodgen Rd.
West of Winchester Rd.
North side of Morgan Rd.
North side of Hardy Rd.

This does not include the areas east of Winchester Rd., south of Morgan Rd. and south of Hardy Rd. Including the following roads north of Hodgen Rd:
(areas north of Hodgen Rd. still under mandatory evacuation)
Remington Rd.
Rifle Terrace
West Goshawk Rd.
East Goshawk Rd.
Albert Ridge View

Residents trying to reenter will need to show their driver’s license or registration. Residents are encouraged to leave heavy equipment alone. Please do not remove the flags on your property. Those are a signal to first responders the area has been cleared for reentry.

Residents need to use the following reentry points:
From the west — use Hodgen Rd. or Walker Rd.
From the east — use Evans Rd. or McCune Rd.
From the north — use County Line Rd. to Black Forest Rd. or Meridian Rd.

Meridian Rd. North of Hodgen Rd. is now open.

Black Forest Fire evacuations

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Friday, June 14, 2013

Fight progressing against Royal Gorge Fire

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 9:25 AM

The Royal Gorge Fire release below, from Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team B, is as of 10 p.m. Thursday:

Highway 50 reopens and Evacuations lifted at Royal Gorge Fire

Cañon City, Colo. — Fire officials announced this evening that U.S. HWY 50 was reopened as of 8 p.m. All residents that were displaced from their homes during the evacuation from the Royal Gorge Fire were allowed to return home this evening at 8 p.m. Officials cautioned residents in the previously evacuated area that they will remain on a pre-evacuation notice should fire conditions change. Fire managers, working with cooperators, were also able to determine that the Royal Gorge Tourist Train can begin operations again, once the railway can evaluate when they will be able to resume normal activities. River access on the closed portion of the Arkansas River (from Spike Buck to Cañon City) will be re-evaluated tomorrow, as the incident managers strive to restore the important recreation features that have been impacted by the Royal Gorge Fire.

Today’s weather, along with the hard work of fire crews, assisted in efforts to restore access to the residential and recreation areas. Cooler temperatures, along with higher relative humidity and light winds kept fire activity to a minimum. The fire is currently estimated at 40 percent containment.

Forecasted weather for the next several days calls for continued cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity. Tomorrow, fire crews will continue to construct, secure and mop up containment lines around the fire’s perimeter.

Approximately 450 people attended tonight’s public meeting at the Cañon City High School. Officials were on hand to share the news that U.S. HWY 50 has been reopened and residents could return to their homes, as well as answer to questions from the public. Public Information Officers will be at Macon Plaza Friday to answer questions about the Royal Gorge Fire as the community welcomes the Ride the Rockies participants.

Royal Gorge Fire Statistics at a Glance:

Time/Date Started: June 11, 2013 approximately 1 p.m.
Location: Fremont County, Colorado
Cause: Under Investigation
Fuels: Piñon, Juniper, Sage Brush
Size: 3,162 acres
Containment: 40%
Resources Committed: Rocky Mountain Area Incident Management Team B, 2 Single Engine Air Tankers, 1 Very Large Air tanker, 2 Type-1 crews, 2 Type-2 crews, 1 Type-1 helicopter, 1 Type 3-helicopter, 5 engines, 1 dozer, and 2 water tenders

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Catholic Charities offers all kinds of help

Posted By on Fri, Jun 14, 2013 at 9:15 AM

From counseling services to baby needs to gas cards, Catholic Charities of Central Colorado is on call. Keep it in mind as needs arise.

Catholic Charities release

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

One Black Forest story: Honey hub destroyed in fire

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Black Forest Honey owner and prominent local beekeeper John Hartley had left his house on Herring Road, north of Swan Road, Tuesday afternoon, headed for an errand at Phil Long Ford at Chapel Hills.

He didn't make it past Black Forest Regional Park before he was turned around and informed of the spreading Black Forest Fire.

His dog was with him, and he called his wife Donna, a local artist and muralist, to meet him back at the house.

Another beekeeper friend happened to be in the area and ducked in to check on the Hartleys, quickly helping them load some possessions into their vehicles — "papers and documents mostly, pictures and stuff," says John.

bee swarm Black Forest Honey
  • Matthew Schniper
  • John Hartley can only hope that the bees inside the 35 hives he left behind were compelled to swarm and save themselves. He has no way to know, but doesn't think they did.

Shortly thereafter, a sheriff's deputy arrived, "and he said, 'You're out of here NOW!'" recalls Hartley. "He says it's a quarter mile across the field and comin'. So we went up the road and were were out of there quick, and he was right behind us."

From the moment he'd been turned around to that hectic moment of fleeing, only an hour and a half had passed.

"We were lucky," says John, referring not only to getting out alive, but specifically being able to at least grab a few things, when many of his neighbors (with whom he's since talked from the nearby motel he's calling home) weren't able to grab anything.

The Hartleys had bought their home 30 years ago, in 1983. In ’89, John started launched Black Forest Honey.

He's since raised queens, become an active leader in the Pikes Peak Beekeepers club, done countless removals and captures of bee swarms, and grown his own hive count to around 165 recently.

At his home, he was forced to leave behind 35 hives that he's fairly certain all perished in the fire — each hive containing tens of thousands of bees — along with all of his beekeeping and removal equipment and a decent supply of new hive materials he stocked to sell other club members.

"I don't know — it's hard to tell if they swarmed out," he says. "That's the tendency when there's smoke, but the smoke was extremely bad and heavy. It was so fast and intense with the heat ...

"I just hoped and prayed that maybe they'd make it okay," he says. "It was my life, my wife's life — we got the dog ..."

Now, he or Donna are taking the time to regroup and begin organizing with their insurance companies. He says he has six months to decide whether to rebuild on that site or not. "We're gonna have to think about that," he says, "but we probably will."

This morning alone, John says, he fielded five swarm calls around the area that he had to refer to other club members. (Spring and early summer are the natural swarm times, when feral and managed hives tend to split at a maximum capacity.) Calling upon all the optimism today will allow him, he says, "We'll recover and come back. It's just a setback."

By now, we know that the Hartleys' is only one of at least 360 heartbreaking stories emerging from the Black Forest Fire. And nobody's attempting to equate the loss of bees here, and a livelihood at least temporarily, to the larger toll of home destruction and human displacement and trauma.

But to a guy like John Hartley, "It really hurts."

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State foots the bill for federal Type 1 team

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Black Forest fire, Sheriff Terry Maketa
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This morning's briefing drew attendance from (left to right) Springs Councilor Joel Miller, Springs Mayor Steve Bach, Springs Interim Fire Chief Tommy Smith, Army Guard Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback, County Commissioner Darryl Glenn and state Sen. Kent Lambert. Sheriff Terry Maketa speaks to reporters as his words are conveyed by sign language by a translator.

The Black Forest Fire has attained the dubious distinction of becoming the most destructive fire in Colorado history with the announcement today that it's claimed 360 homes in the rural bedroom community north of Colorado Springs.

As of 6 a.m. today, local firefighting forces are under the command of Rich Harvey's federal Type 1 fire team who arrived yesterday from Nevada. The team took charge of a 15,000-acre Black Forest Fire, which is burning through private and El Paso County land, NOT federal forest land that Type 1 teams normally oversee.

That means the state of Colorado, not the federal government, will foot the bill for the fire, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has allocated $5 million for the fire. That amount could grow, however, if firefighting needs outpace that allocation.

El Paso County Administrator Jeff Greene explains in an interview:

Based upon the updates the chair of the board [of county commissioners] and I received last night at 6 p.m. when the type team was fully integrating in the process and assuming control of operations, which officially occurred at 6 a.m. this morning, it was clearly defined that this would be a program administered by the state of Colorado. The government came through. Funds have already been allocated. And all expenses will be submitted to the state of Colorado through coordination with El Paso County.

During the morning news briefing, Maketa called the number of destroyed homes, at 360 as of 9 a.m. this morning, "staggering" and "shocking" and said the total probably will climb. That's because deputies have had difficulty getting into the burn area due to rekindled fires, he said. He described how layers of fuels, including pine needles, grass and pine cones reignite when a burst of wind comes through.

"Things look pretty well calmed down," he said. "Then a gust comes and the next thing you know, it's raging."

Maketa termed the wind the number one threat facing firefighters as the fire enters its third day of high temperatures, low humidity and erratic winds.

Fort Carson has sent two Chinook and two Black Hawk helicopters, while the National Guard has provided three Black Hawks and one smaller Lakota to be used by the command team to survey the fire, said Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback, who's serving as the liaison to Harvey's team.

Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson AFB, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the Air Force Academy also have joined in the fire fight with engines and other assets.

The National Guard also is helping patrol evacuated areas, Maketa said.

In related news, County Commissioner Darryl Glenn announced that El Pomar Foundation has provided $250,000 to help those who have been displaced by the fire.

Maketa repeated what he said on Wednesday about containment, saying officials haven't reached a point where they can confidently say any portion of the fire has been contained.

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County Disaster Assistance Center now open

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 9:31 AM

helping hand
  • Shutterstock \ Copyright DVARG

County officials have confirmed that the El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center has opened as of this morning, at the Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. Here's info on what's available at that site:

The Disaster Assistance Center will bring together representatives of major insurance companies, El Paso County Public Health, healthcare providers, the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, utilities providers, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs Office of Emergency Management, grief counselors and local non-profits offering services to residents impacted by the Black Forest Fire.

“We learned from the Waldo Canyon Fire last year that citizens have a wide variety of needs,” said Commissioner Chair Dennis Hisey. “By bringing together state and local agencies and non-profit organizations with a lot of experience and expertise the Disaster Assistance Center can make a real difference.”

The Disaster Assistance Center will be open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice.

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Royal Gorge Fire at 20 percent containment

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 9:22 AM

While they're still facing a "Red Flag Weather Warning, downed power lines, and active fire moving in stands of beetle killed trees" for Thursday, firefighters battling the Royal Gorge Fire can say they've got some containment.

Royal Gorge Fire reaches 20 percent containment

Key Facts as of 8:30 p.m.
· Fire size is estimated at 3,100 acres and 20 percent containment
· 20 structures have been lost
· The Royal Gorge Bridge is intact

The Royal Gorge Fire continues to burn west of Canon City in piñon and juniper forests. Fire behavior throughout the day was active with visible torching, spotting and running in heavy fuels.

All road closures and evacuations remain in place west of Canon City throughout the evening. Firefighters continue work to establish anchor points and build line around the fire. Road closures are in place to allow firefighters to operate safely in the area.

The Royal Gorge Rodeo grounds are available for those needing to shelter their livestock.

“We have made good progress on the fire today without any accidents or injuries thanks in large part to our many partners,” said Dennis Page, Incident Commander for the Royal Gorge Fire. “Crews from Canon City, Fremont County, and the State of Colorado are working alongside firefighters from the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.”

Some challenges firefighters will face Thursday include a Red Flag Weather Warning, downed power lines, and active fire moving in stands of beetle killed trees.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team will take command of the fire Thursday morning. The team is working on planning a community informational meeting for Thursday evening. Details will be provided in the Thursday morning informational briefing.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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UPDATE: 360 homes now categorized as 'total loss,' according to sheriff

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 9:16 AM

According to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, at today's 9 a.m. press conference:

"Right now we have verified the immediate burn area ... 1205 homes that are confirmed to be unaffected by the fire so far ... we have 14 that are partially damaged, and we have right now 360 homes that are complete losses."

Maketa says about 20 deputies worked throughout the night to reverify the list. That said, 79 additional addresses are unable to be listed, generally due to accessibility problems.

Again, here's a link to the full list, which is being updated as the sheriff's office gathers new information:

http://www.epcsheriff.com/bff/Black%20Forest%20Fire%20-%20Residences.pdf

——— SECOND POST, 5:20 P.M., WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12 ——-

According to Sheriff Terry Maketa at today's 5 p.m. news conference, the PDF'd version of the list below is already outdated. Since it was assembled, the fire has changed directions and probably has consumed some of the properties originally listed as appearing "unaffected."

Maketa urges the public to click on the link below, as it is a "live" document — in other words, workers in his office are updating it as they come upon new information. (That said, a crush of web traffic has overwhelmed this link in the last half hour, so please be patient.)

http://www.epcsheriff.com/bff/Black%20Forest%20Fire%20-%20Residences.pdf

———- ORIGINAL POST, 5 P.M., WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12 ————

At 4:43 p.m., the El Paso County Sheriff's Office released via Twitter a list of residences affected by the Black Forest Fire. According to our count, 92 homes have been confirmed as "total losses," with another five noted as having been partially damaged.

Here's a screen shot from the first page of the list:

The PDF is 10 pages long, as it also lists homes that appear unaffected. Here it is in full:

Black_Forest_Fire_-_Residences.pdf

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Shelter opens for military families, DOD employees

Posted By on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 9:08 AM

1361462862-carson_statue2.jpg

While the military has been providing firefighting support for much of the last couple days, Fort Carson now announced it'll be helping in another way.

Fort Carson opens shelter for military evacuees

FORT CARSON, Colo. — The Fort Carson Youth Center is open as a shelter for military Families and Department of Defense civilians who have evacuated due to the southern Colorado fires.

The center is located at 1518 Ware Street, Building 5950. Pets are welcome, but the center asks pet owners to bring their own kennels, leashes, food and feeding bowls.

The center can house up to 100 people and is available on a first come, first served basis. To contact the center please call 526-2794 526-2680.

For more information contact the Fort Carson Public Affairs Office at (719) 526-4143/7525 or (719) 524-2446. After hours, please contact the 24-hour Fort Carson Operations Center at 526-5500 and ask for the On-Call Public Affairs Officer.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Emergency clothing vouchers for fire evacuees made available

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Discover Goodwill of Southern and Western Colorado has jumped into action, making clothing available for free for evacuees of the Black Forest Fire.

Please note the press release below reflects a newly updated location, directing people to the county's Citizens Service Center.

Discover Goodwill Assists Black Forest Fire Evacuees with Material Needs
Emergency Vouchers Focused on Clothing Provisions

Colorado Springs, CO, June 12, 2013 — Through a partnership with El Paso County, Discover Goodwill of Southern and Western Colorado is providing relief assistance to Black Forest Fire evacuees through the issuing of emergency vouchers redeemable for clothing items at designated retail centers. Beginning Thursday, June 13, Discover Goodwill will issue emergency vouchers between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the County’s newly-established Disaster Assistance Center located in the Citizens Service Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Rd.

Fire evacuees can redeem their emergency vouchers at the following Discover Goodwill Retail Centers:
Circle Retail Center
2007 S. Circle Dr.
Mon. — Sat., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Powers Retail Center
2655 Waynoka Dr.
Mon. — Sat., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

North Retail Center
1070 Kelly Johnson Blvd.
Mon. — Sat., 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sun. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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CSPD patrolling voluntary evac area

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 3:49 PM

From the City of Colorado Springs, CSPD is patrolling voluntary evacuation area "A," west to I-25 and all areas north of Old Ranch Road within the city limits.

Colorado Springs Police Conducting Patrols in the City’s Voluntary Evacuation “Area A”

Colorado Springs, Colo.—Colorado Springs Police Department is patrolling throughout the City’s Voluntary Evacuation Area A to provide security for residents’ homes while they are out of the area.

Voluntary Evacuation Area A: West to I-25 and all areas north of Old Ranch Road within the City limits of Colorado Springs.

As a reminder:

A Voluntary Evacuation means that the fire is moving closer to you. A mandatory evacuation order may be issued at any time. Now is the time to prepare for immediate evacuation. If you think that you may have complications evacuation, or need assistance evacuation now may be the best time to leave.

Be sure to take essential items—medicine, special foods, personal items, baby supplies, clothing, money, and valuable papers — but do not overload your vehicle. Families are encouraged to take only one vehicle to avoid congesting the evacuation routes. Secure your home before you leave. Be sure to check on any neighbors who may need assistance.

Residents who cannot stay with family or friends outside the evacuation area, go to one of the shelters listed below:

· Palmer Ridge High School- 19255 Monument Hill Rd, Monument

Pets will not be allowed in the shelters. If residents cannot make arrangements for someone outside the evacuation area to take care of their pet the following places may be able to house their animal:

Animal Shelters:

· Powers Pet Emergency- Powers and Stetson Hills — Offering small animal assistance, medical & kennel. Ph (719) 473-0482
· Falcon Animal Hospital- Phone (719) 495-1457, is now accepting dogs and cats. Address: 860 Swing Line Road.

Do not allow pet to run loose. If residents cannot make arrangements for your large animals the following places may be able to provide assistance:

Large Animal Shelters:

· Elbert County Fairgrounds (95 Ute Avenue, Kiowa, CO. 303-718-3343).
· El Paso County Fairgrounds in Calhan is now accepting evacuated large animals.

Residents with no means of transportation or who are physically unable to evacuate on their own, should ask a neighbor to assist them or call the following number: (719) 444-7000.

“BE READY!” If you are not in the current evacuation or pre-evacuation areas there is currently no immediate danger to your home, family, or business, but the fire is growing and may be moving toward you as weather and wind conditions change. Now is the time to get ready. Refine your evacuation plans, and gather the things you’ll need if you must evacuate.

It is imperative that all citizens stay away from all evacuated areas. Please do not stop in these areas for any reason as it can endanger evacuees and emergency personnel.

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Cottonwood will store art for evacuees

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Cottonwood Center for the Arts

Artwork may not be the first priority for some people forced out of their homes by the Black Forest Fire, but if there's a family memento, a beloved piece of art, or, really, your own work that needs safe keeping, Cottonwood Center for the Arts will take it.

Per a press release today:

Our thoughts go out to everyone in Southern Colorado currently affected by the fires. We are offering space to store your art if you have or will be evacuated. Give us a call at 719-520-1899 on your way in and we will start getting space ready for you, or if you can't call just feel free to show up. We hope all of you are safe. Please let us know if we can help in any way.

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See or smell smoke? Head inside, if you can

Posted By on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 at 2:09 PM

According to El Paso County Public Health, there's little to be gained from spending time outside today — unless you're on your way to check in on a neighbor.


El Paso County Public Health advises people to take precautions to protect from wildfire smoke

As smoke from the Black Forest Fire and fires in surrounding areas continue to affect air quality in El Paso County, Public Health recommends that people monitor air quality and if needed, take precautionary steps.

El Paso County Public Health is advising people, especially young children, those who exercise outdoors, those involved in vigorous outdoor work and those who have respiratory disease (such as asthma) to reduce or limit strenuous outdoor physical activity. If visibility is decreased in your neighborhood to less than five miles, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy.

“If you can see or smell smoke, it is a good indicator to reduce your exposure by going indoors,” said Jill Law, R.N., M.H.A., El Paso County Public Health Director.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a wildfire smoke health advisory for the Black Forest Fire. To monitor current air quality, visit www.elpasocountyhealth.org.

For those individuals without indoor air conditioning, consider moving to cooler areas when possible. Drink plenty of water or other non-alcohol or decaffeinated fluids. Your body needs water to keep cool.

“This is the time for people to reach out to their friends and neighbors,” Ms. Law said. “If you know someone affected by wildfire smoke that doesn’t have air conditioning, help them in any way you can, by inviting them over or helping them find a safe place.”

Individuals experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain or coughing should consult their medical provider.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Following the Black Forest Fire (and other fires)

Posted By on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 at 4:55 PM

With our fire season having exploded in a matter of just a couple hours today, the Independent urges you to follow the latest news on local television and radio, as well as social media.

As you might expect, the latter has proven to be most quickly advancing the narrative; Twitter users were the first to report Black Forest homes on fire. But aerial images from TV are now horrifying as well.

Here's the latest info on hashtags being used on Twitter. In addition to these, users are asking the larger Twitter community to add 24-hour timestamps to all fire-related tweets to help decrease some of the confusion that happened during the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Screen_shot_2013-06-11_at_4.20.09_PM.png

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