COLORADO SPRINGS — As we continue to follow the devastating Boulder County fires that are forcing thousands of evacuations, News 5 is taking a closer look into how the City of Colorado Springs makes decisions about how to get people out during a wildfire.
"Our hearts, prayers, and thoughts go out to everyone up there. We went through it 9 1/2 years ago," said Bill Wysong, President of the Mountain Shadows Community and Westside Watch.
Wysong feels strong emotions when he remembers the day the Waldo Canyon Fire burned parts of his Mountain Shadows neighborhood.
"It brings up a lot of those issues and traumas. Many people lost their homes around us. We were lucky, we didn't but when you see it, it does spur you because we know what is going on. The city and the people in power are pushing for development, packing in additional people when it wasn't designed or zoned for that. If it happened here again or happened at the Broadmoor, it could be devastating," said Wysong.
The Boulder County Fires yet another reminder of the dangers his community could face with another wildfire. Wysong says I-25 at Woodmen and Rockrimmon were packed the day of the Waldo Canyon Fire.
"The population evacuation is around 34,000 between Louisville and Superior, and it was between 34,000 and 36,000 that evacuated out of the northwest side of the town with the Waldo Canyon Fire. The speed at which the fire moved, and even Governor Polis was saying in one of the news reports last night, it was moving football fields in minutes. It was kind of like what happened with the Waldo Canyon Fire, they thought they had four to five hours when it hit the top of Queens Canyon and it was burning homes within 45 minutes. You just don't know, and that is why we have requested and submitted an ordinance on clearance evacuation times because it is an eerily parallel or comparison to what we experienced 9 1/2 years old," said Wysong.
A spokesperson for the City of Colorado Springs says the Incident Commander works with law enforcement to make decisions on road closures, traffic flow, and evacuation routes. First Responders plan and execute a response appropriate for real-time conditions. Multiple evacuation alternative routes are identified in advance and the Incident Commander determines the best route based on the incident, the direction of the threat, and variables such as weather, wind speed, hazmat, etc.
"Those notifications are really neat as they work as a reverse 911 or notification. So everyone listed will get notified within a geographic area," said Noblitt.
Retired Colorado Springs Firefighter Dave Noblitt encourages homeowners to have a plan to get out quickly.
"So you're medications, financial documents, all of the paperwork that would be difficult to replace. Know where it is so you don't have to think about locating it before you take it," said Noblitt.
"Every one of these wildfires that we have, you get more and more proof that fire moves quickly," said Wysong.
For more information about wildfire preparedness, The Colorado Springs Fire Department recommends visiting Ready for Wildfire.
Help your Boulder County Neighbors | Donate to the Scripps Howard Foundation
No doubt, many Coloradans are thinking of ways to help their neighbors in Boulder County. One way you can give is through the Scripps Howard Foundation. You can conveniently and safely donate through the program online. If you're reading this on your computer, you can snap a photo of the code below to go right to the donation form on your phone.
Either way, just select “Wildfire Relief Fund” from the drop-down menu. KOAA News5 thanks you for your consideration as we look to bring hope and help the community rebuild stronger.