Residents in Colorado Springs are being forced to make the impossible decision of what to leave behind as they abandon their homes in the path of an aggressive wildfire. Firefighters are still struggling to contain the blaze as nearly 35,000 people are forced to evacuate.
Known as the Waldo Canyon Fire, the blaze has already charred a number of homes and now threatens the U.S. Air Force Academy. The blaze is sweeping the nation, according to a Chicago Tribune report and a buzz throughout the social media landscape.
While the blaze has been active for more than five days, it wasn’t the significant threat it is now until Tuesday, when it rapidly overran containment lines and latched onto anything flammable in the northwestern section of the second-most populated city in Colorado. Officials have yet to provide information on the extent of the damage.
As fire and rescue crews work to try and control the blaze, countless Twitter (News - Alert) posts provide unsolicited advice on how to get the upper hand on the fire. At the same time, prayers abound, videos capture the activity and news reports continue to use the emergency as a method to attract an audience.
Even these reports may not give the full story. The extent of the emergency and the affected landscape were referred to as “surreal” by Governor John Hickenlooper. Rich Brown, Fire Chief for Colorado Springs, referred to the fire as a monster that is “not even remotely close to being contained.”
The shifting winds are not helping the situation. As firefighters continue to battle the blaze, currents cause the flames to flip from one direction to another. With this kind of activity, efforts to dull the fire can often waste energy and put lives at risk.
As of Tuesday night, 32,000 people had been evacuated from their homes, social media and news reports serving as their only means of information. At that same reporting, four people had been reported killed, with no serious injuries on Wednesday.
Emergency response takes on new meaning when a whole city is attacked. As the flames continue to threaten homes and lives, communications sources are likely to be at risk. Burning towers can render even cell phones useless, increasing the need for emergency communications resources on the scene.
Wildfires continue to blaze within nine western states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center located in Boise, Idaho. Eight of the active wildfires are blazing in Colorado, while Colorado, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, Arizona, Nevada and California are all the midst of the fire season.