June 27, 2012 News » Cover Story

Devil next door 

At press time, the numbers were hard to wrap your mind around.

Affected acres: 5,100. Personnel at work: 600.

Estimated containment date: 7/16.

But it was probably just as well that you didn't try to wrap your mind around them, because they'd soon be different, anyway. The story of the Waldo Canyon Fire has morphed incredibly quickly since flames were first reported not far from U.S. Highway 24 around noon Saturday.

Firefighters and other emergency responders, of course, deserve our greatest thanks. Nonprofits and community groups that have helped the thousands of evacuees need to be recognized, too.

Meanwhile, local TV stations have also done a praiseworthy job of keeping up with images and explanations and warnings and all the news playing out in the Springs, Manitou, Woodland Park, Cascade, Chipita Park and Green Mountain Falls. The conflagration has been televised, and televised well.

It's also been tweeted. Like crazy.

According to Topsy Labs, Inc., more than 15,000 Twitter messages that included the #WaldoCanyonFire hashtag were sent out on Sunday alone. That's one every six seconds. Scroll through them, and of course you'll find examples of misinformation, duplication and occasional inanity. But you'll find a lot more 140-character missives that capture poignant thoughts and essential information.

That in mind, intern Wyatt Miller (with a little help from associate editor Kirsten Akens and director of digital media Becca Sickbert) has weeded through the tweets to create something of a social-media-powered timeline. Starting below and using the words and characters of more than two dozen locals, we present a wide-lens snapshot of 36 weekend hours that were as harrowing as they were historic.

Everybody knows we're far from being out of danger. So as we look ahead to the next week, let's hope the number that changes most is this one: 5 percent containment.

Bob @bobfireman 12:17 PM, 23 June 2012

Getting lots of reports of a fire in Waldo Canyon area. Smoke plume visible from Colorado Springs. Lots of crews enroute.

CSFD PIO @csfdpio 12:18 PM, 23 June 2012

Wildland fire possibly in Waldo canyon, city units responding to assist with county.

James Doolittle @jimmiedoo 12:31 PM, 23 June 2012

Fire right above the homes on the westside and garden of the gods. #scary http://pic.twitter.com/AHYfzwxW

The Gazette @csgazette 1:16 PM, 23 June 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Wildfire drives evacuations on west side of #CoSprings http://ubin.cc/KF9D1q

Jocelyne Jergensen @jocelynel3 3:48 PM, 23 June 2012

Please stay off Hwy 24 w of manitou. Gawkers are preventing 1st responders access to #pyramidmtnfire #waldofire #waldocanyonfire

Criz @zyrcster 4:36 PM, 23 June 2012

Watching tanks of water and equipment going past on hwy 24 west

Mark McNeillie @MMcNeillie 5:30 PM, 23 June 2012

This #Waldocanyonfire is what everyone was scared of during the Hayman Fire

Kayla Daniels @kayladnls 5:35 PM, 23 June 2012

Between the hail and the fires, I'm starting to think the Mayans were on to something

Calhan Auction @CalhanAuction 7:45 PM, 23 June 2012

Reverse 911 has gone out for Manitou Springs for #WaldoCanyonFire. Be on stand by. Wind has died down but has shifted in that direction.

Kirk Garner @kirk_garner 12:33 AM, 24 June 2012

Sheesh. They are moving the dozers into the Cedar Heights safety zone. Getting bad up there. #WaldoCanyonFire

Cerissa @Fringie6989 2:28 AM, 24 June 2012

Wildlife fleeing, ash falling all over town, Manitou being completely evacuated...this is scary as hell. #waldocanyonfire

Todd Laxson @sportsdork 3:28 AM, 24 June 2012

My parents built in Manitou in 1970 and this is the first evacuation in our history. Stay safe everybody! #crystalhills #WaldoCanyonFire

Loree Rider @L0reeRider 9:14 AM, 24 June 2012

Morning...catching views of planes dropping fire retardant materials on #waldocanyonfire this morning. Beautiful how hard they're fighting.

Steve Segin @RMACCFireinfo 9:49 AM, 24 June 2012

The Rocky Mountain Area has moved to prepardness level 5. Pl levels determine resource allocation, planning and readiness The scale is 1-5

Dean Miles, CPCC @dean_miles 9:52 AM, 24 June 2012

"@kktv11news: BREAKING NEWS: Hwy 24 closed westbound at 31st #WaldoCanyonFire" That means we are stuck down in the Springs for now.

CDPHE EPR @COHealth 10:00 AM, 24 June 2012

If you see or smell smoke, avoid outdoor physical activities. If visibility <5 miles, smoke levels are unhealthy. #cohealth #wildfire

Larry Brukardt @YooperGrits 11:03 AM, 24 June 2012

#waldocanyonfire Friend in Crystola evacuating. Flames in view coming over ridge toward Crystola. Reports confusing info on HWY 24 closures

Mike Nelson @racerboi8 11:27 AM, 24 June 2012

We've made national news. Not the way this should happen. #WaldoCanyonFire

Cynthia Jeub @cynthiajeub 11:30 AM, 24 June 2012

Manitou Springs is one of the prides of Colorado/small shops and restaurants, 100-yr-old houses. Entire town evacuated for #WaldoCanyoneFire

Angie Berry @Angie_E_Berry 11:31 AM, 24 June 2012

Oh my god! "@KRDONewsRadio: #WaldoCanyonFire, fire is about 25 minutes from possibly jumping HWY 24, Colo State Patrol."

Mike Nelson @racerboi8 11:37 AM, 24 June 2012

#WaldoCanyonFire is clearly visible from space on satellite imagery. #fact

Ellie Cole @EllieRCole 11:41 AM, 24 June 2012

Gov. Hickenlooper is at the shelter and says CO has 70 helicopters and tanker planes which is half of the airborne equipment in the country

Peter Dettmann @Peter_Dettmann 12:02 PM, 24 June 2012

CSPD: The #WaldoCanyonFire changed course and is threatening the Cedar Heights neighborhood. Evacuate IMMEDIATELY if you are in the area.

Josh @jdhollandsc 12:06 PM, 24 June 2012

@_JHellBoy_ I don't think cedar heights is going to survive the way it looks at the moment.

Daryl @LochLaird 3:04 PM, 24 June 2012

Temp outside the house just hit 103. #WaldoCanyonFire still 0% contained. Several thousand evac'd alrdy.

Jocelyne Jergensen @jocelynel3 3:49 PM, 24 June 2012

Gas stations in Woodland Park area are running ouet of gas! No way for them to get deliveries w/hwy 24 closed #waldocanyonfire

Ryan Maye Handy @ryanmhandy 4:34 PM, 24 June 2012

Fire mitigation in Cedar Heights stopped flames today #waldocanyonfire @csgazette

CDPHE Air Pollution @cdpheapcd 4:48 PM, 24 June 2012

Health Advisories issued for #WaldoCanyonFire #HighParkFire #LittleSandFire #WeberFire. Reduce exposure, exertion, see http://colorado.gov/airquality

CO - Emergency Mgmt @COEmergency 4:58 PM, 24 June 2012

FEMA Authorizes Funds for Wald Canyon and Weber Fires http://goo.gl/fb/Mzxsi

Vicky Evans @VickyEvansKOA 6:21 PM, 24 June 2012

Retardant line holding on the ridge NE side of #WaldoCanyonFire. @850KOA http://lockerz.com/s/219802248

Geoff Peters @geoffpeters 6:44 PM, 24 June 2012

Normally, flurries of white stuff in Colorado Springs means snow, not ash. The fire is still growing. No containment. #WaldoCanyonFire #fb

Maria St. Louis @mariastlouis 6:54 PM, 24 June 2012

Smoke is really starting to descend on the west side. The area surrounding Coronado High feels like a campfire #WaldoCanyonFire

neglectoid @neglectoid 7:13 PM, 24 June 2012

are any of the bars gonna open tonight after the manditory evacuation is lifted? i could use a drink with friends. #waldocanyonfire

Michelle Malkin @michellemalkin 7:38 PM, 24 June 2012

It's looks like nuclear winter in COS, smells like a mega-ashtray. #WaldoCanyonFire

D Scott Penman @scottpenman 8:03 PM, 24 June 2012

7:35 Evacuation order in Manitou Springs lifted at 8 p.m. Family heading home tomorrow after the rush http://ow.ly/1O88Sf #waldocanyonfire

CareandShareFB @CareandShareFB 9:24 PM, 24 June 2012

thanks to all those who've helped today. We collected 92,000 pounds and over $15,000. Back at it tomorrow, 7am.

Here's the Storify version:


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