Hot, dry, and windy: the key ingredients for wildfire. Colorado's Front Range has been no stranger to those elements and their deadly offspring this week as crack fire crews battle blazes in Ft. Collins, Boulder and Colorado Springs.
The Waldo Canyon fire has already consumed more than 2,000 acres in and around Colorado Springs, and fire crews have been unable to contain it yet. Due to the confusion of heavy smoke, damaged roads and burnt out address markers, authorities aren't sure how many homes have been destroyed, but 32,000 people have been evacuated as wind gusts of up to 65 mph fan the flames.
Ryan Maye Handy, a reporter with the Colorado Springs Gazette, told us that between interviews with local public safety officials and the fire incident command team, estimates of the number of homes burned down range from 100 to more than 300 homes. The fire has been burning for nearly four days, but incident command believes the blaze will continue for the next month as it is fed by winds from open prairie to the east.
Highway 24, the road leading up to Pikes Peak from Colorado Springs, is currently closed and will be for the foreseeable future. The closure doesn't bode well for the race staying on schedule. Pikes Peak International Hill Climb President & CEO Tom Osborne released the following statement yesterday:
"We are cautiously optimistic concerning the running of the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on July 8 after an informative and thorough meeting this morning with Mayor Steve Bach and officials from the City of Colorado Springs. We are in consistent touch with these officials, and monitoring the constantly-developing situation related to the wildfires."
"We are grateful for the support of the City and for the efforts of the agencies involved in protecting our community from the fire. Our constant thoughts are with the hundreds of men and women who are in the air and on the ground giving us their best, and with our residents and neighbors."
"In the meantime, our systems for the staging of the race and the ancillary events connected to it are fully operative."
People involved in the race aren't optimistic. Handy said that a southwestern arm of the Waldo Canyon fire has been subject to variable winds, and looks as though it may make a run toward Pikes Peak. To make matters worse, weather forecasters are expecting thunderstorms with high winds this week (for those unfamiliar with Colorado thunderstorms, there usually isn't a whole lot of rain associated with them).
"The fire isn't contained and winds from the thunderstorms are so erratic that it could make the fire go in any direction," Handy said.
For the race to go on the roads would have to open up and emergency crews would have to be available. Crews that might still be involved in fighting the blaze.
Stay tuned for more updates.
Photo credit: Associated Press/Getty