recommended reading

Thousands flee Colorado Springs fire

The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

The Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. // Air Force

A raging wildfire that has tripled in size since Tuesday has forced 32,000 Colorado Springs, Colo., residents from their homes and another 2,100 from the Air Force Academy located just north of the city.

Federal fire managers eyeballed the spread of the fire on map developed from an overnight flight of a Forest Service aircraft equipped with an infrared imaging and mapping system.

The City of Colorado Springs issued a mandatory evacuation order for people living in the northwest part of the city as the Waldo Canyon fire in Pike National Forest exploded from 8 square miles to 24 square miles overnight. Federal wildfire managers predicted “extreme fire behavior with extreme rates of spread” Wednesday as 764 firefighters battle the blaze in 90-plus degree temperatures.

Ann Rys-Sykora, a spokeswoman for the response effort, said as the fire spreads she expects the number of evacuations to increase in areas west of the city.

John Van Winkle, an Air Force Academy spokesman, said residential areas on the 28-square-mile base house personnel from other installations in the Colorado Springs area, including Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base as well as academy personnel and their families. The Army is providing emergency housing at the Fort Carson Special Events Center, but residents can use alternative housing as long as they inform their commands, Van Winkle said.

The fire also dumped ash on the campus, which will see the arrival of 1,000 new cadets in the class of 2016 tomorrow. Van Winkle said the academy intends to continue with its plans to host the new class, despite the fire.

The Air Force said it made 20 drops on the Waldo Canyon fires yesterday from four C-130s equipped with Forest Service-owned modular airborne firefighting systems that can dump 3,000 gallons of fire retardant over an area 60 feet wide for one-quarter of a mile. Rys-Sykora said due to weather conditions, smoke and the demand for C-130s to fight other Colorado fires, these aircraft would not be deployed on the Waldo Canyon fire Wednesday.

Fire managers were able to precisely calculate the huge growth of the Waldo Canyon fire based on imagery captured overnight by the Forest Service’s Phoenix infrared fire detection and mapping system, said Thomas Mellin, manager of infrared operations for the Forest Service.

Mellin said a Beechcraft King Air turboprop equipped with the Phoenix system mapped the Waldo Canyon and other fires Tuesday night, downloading data over the AirCell Inc.-operated aircraft cellular system that can transmit data to the ground at a rate of 1.8 mbps to a secure file transfer protocol website. Imagery interpreters then pulled that data and develop digital fire maps for 5:30 a.m. delivery to fire scene managers responsible for planning daily firefighting operations.

A key fire information website, InciWeb -- an interagency system that tracks wild land fires and provides information to firefighters and the public, has experienced problems this week, according to Mike Ferris, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. The site has been slow or impossible to load, which Ferris attributed to higher than normal traffic.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats


Close [ x ] More from Nextgov

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Modernizing IT for Mission Success

    Surveying Federal and Defense Leaders on Priorities and Challenges at the Tactical Edge

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • Effective Ransomware Response

    This whitepaper provides an overview and understanding of ransomware and how to successfully combat it.

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.