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Firefighters on the frontlines reflect on Waldo Canyon Fire losses and homes saved

Posted at 8:25 AM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 08:58:00-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — News5 is looking back on the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and the lasting impact on our communities. As we stood on the trails in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, a stark reminder of that day for Captain JJ Halsey with the Colorado Springs Fire Department, "From the top of the hill it was like a bombed-out warzone and I was just so mad this was happening in our own backyard."

Captain Halsey, Lieutenant Trevor Leland, and paramedic Dan Spanagel walked with me as they reminisced on the day the Waldo Canyon fire broke out. Their crew was called in almost immediately.

Firefighters created a line in the sand using Flying W Ranch Road, Wilson Road, and Rossmere Street as boundaries, but mother nature was in charge.

Flames were swallowing up homes faster than they could have imagined. Lt. Leland looking over his shoulder to a neighborhood that was lost in the fire recalls trying to keep up, "You just see house after house after house on fire and it just moved so fast that you would turn the corner and get down that street and that house was on fire and there was nothing you could do at that point and you just keep driving to get to a house that was not on fire yet. "

Both Lt. Leland and Spanagel lived in one of the neighborhoods that were evacuated. It was the next morning when the sun came up, that reality struck Spanagel, "This is my running trail. This is my neighborhood so when I went out during the daytime, it hit me. Everything I knew was gone."

Smoke from the Waldo Canyon fire was first reported on June 22, 2012, but it wasn't located until the next day. The fire burned just over 18,000 acres and caused more than $352.6 million in damage.

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