SOUTHERN COLORADO — In his 24 years with the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD), Captain Michael Smaldino says he cannot recall conditions as dry as they are now in Southern Colorado.
"These winds really pick up and it fans a flame and it starts it up again," said Smaldino.
Three fires broke out in homeless camps on Tuesday: Two in Colorado Springs and one in Pueblo.
"Ours were pretty small," said Smaldino.
In Pueblo, the campfire on the Northside burned roughly two acres with 25-foot flame lengths, according to the Pueblo Fire Department (PFD).
The nearby building was forced to evacuate.
"This kind of weather is the absolute worst to deal with these types of situations in. The winds are gusting 40 to 60 miles an hour," said Captain Woody Percival with PFD.
CSFD captured this video of one of the fires.
Fire is out. Contained to camp that is on the creek. FF’s will remain on scene to put out hotspots. Reminder, we are still under burn restrictions in Colorado Springs pic.twitter.com/t3ZmsXjGSx— CSFD PIO (@CSFDPIO) January 4, 2022
"It's not malicious... They're living," said Smaldino.
Because the homeless population is not typically informed when days are on High-Fire Danger alert, CSFD relies on the community to call at the first sign of smoke.
"The biggest thing that we have is early reporting, and that's the one thing that we always try and ask everybody is... if you see smoke if you see a fire… Call 911. Don't just assume that somebody has already called, and that's really what I think is keeping these fires small."
CSFD occasionally teams up with the Colorado Springs Police Department to inform the homeless population of other resources, like warming shelters, and explain the dangers and consequences if a fire in the camps gets out of hand.