The raging fire near Colorado Springs is threatening to inflict heavy damage at the U.S. Air Force Academy and has already forced thousands of residents of the base to evacuate.
What is known as the Waldo Canyon Fire, the firestorm has reportedly stretched over 24 square miles and doubled in size in just 24 hours. Although the Air Force Academy continues daily operations, it obviously is closed to visitors and over 2,100 civilian and military personnel and their families have already fled. More than 30,000 other people living in Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and Woodland Park have also been evacuated, but remarkably, the Air Force Academy website recently released a statement that said that approximately 1,000 new cadet appointees are expected to arrive in the area for in-processing today.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has informed the media that the multiple fires is the worst disaster he has ever seen in his state. Firefighters in Colorado have been fighting the Colorado Springs fire since Saturday but have been battling other major fires for most of this month. The wildfires have been aided by temperatures in the 100s and low humidity, which essentially makes the forests near the Rocky Mountains even drier. Thus far, the Waldo Canyon Fire has burned through over 16,000 acres and destroying at least 60 homes. What makes matters even more critical is that fire officials said yesterday that the fire is only just five percent contained.
Military officials have already dispatched half of the Air Force fleet of C-130 cargo planes based at Peterson Air Force Base south of the academy and from the 153rd Airlift Wing in Wyoming. The fleet is currently dumping flame-retardant chemicals on the fire and 25 or more military helicopters are preparing to join the battle and have made the airfield at the Air Force Academy available for emergency operations, while offering shower facilities, food and shelter to the firefighters.
As of today, the High Park fire in northern Colorado is the second largest fire in Colorado history as has destroyed over 350 homes and in addition to the Waldo Canyon Fire, firefighters are battling eight other fires in the Centennial State. Currently there are over 1,000 firefighters battling the fire near the Air Force Academy but others are expected to join them within days.
For the latest breaking information on the fire that threatens the Air Force Academy in El Paso County, please visit the academy’s official website at http://www.usafa.af.mil/