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Waldo Canyon fire update: One death, 347 homes destroyed, 20K threatened

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Editor's note: Click here for the latest on the Waldo Canyon fire.

Update:Firefighters made progress against the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs yesterday -- enough to get a better sense of the destruction that took place the previous day.

The number of homes destroyed had been estimated at north of 300, and that proved all too accurate. Thus far, 347 homes have been confirmed burned, and one person has died.

Thus far, authorities haven't named the victim, but the Colorado Springs Gazette reports that a person living at 2910 Rossmere Street remains unaccounted for. As of four o'clock yesterday afternoon, a handful of others were reported missing, too, raising the prospect of more casualties. But there's hope they've simply fallen through the cracks, as would be entirely natural given the scope of the evacuation; around 32,000 people have been displaced. The latest update of the U.S. Forest Service InciWeb page for the blaze, featuring information from late last night, puts the acreage consumed at 16,750, a number that's up from this time yesterday morning, but down from some estimates during the day as a result of more accurate mapping. Approximately 1,118 personnel are engaged in the battle -- the largest sum since the conflagration's start on June 23 -- and they had greater success in protecting structures yesterday than in the 24 hours previous. Still, the feds estimate that 20,085 residences and 160 commercial structures are still at risk of adding to the incineration total. On the positive tip, weather conditions that weren't quite as hot, dry and windy as before gave firefighters a chance to improve lines and actually do some mopping up along the Rampart Range Road, on the north flank of the fire -- and the Highway 24 corridor, which has been so devastated, was relatively quiet. As such, containment is up to 15 percent. But this accomplishment, achieved at a cost thus far of $5.2 million, is tempered by the understanding that these gains can't be considered permanent at this stage. Today, President Barack Obama is scheduled to tour the fire zone -- an indication of where the Waldo Canyon fire ranks among the blazes currently raging in several Western states. It's an honor Springs residents would gladly trade for a return to June 22.

Below, see the most recent map outlining the mandatory fire lines and several emotional new videos, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down to see our previous coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 5:58 a.m. June 28: This time yesterday, the High Park fire near Fort Collins had destroyed more homes than any Colorado blaze -- 257-- and it's still the official record holder. But no one expects this dreadful distinction to last. The Waldo Canyon fire, which is raging both inside and outside of Colorado Springs at this writing, went off like a bomb Wednesday, with officials currently estimating that 300 homes were engulfed. And that total is expected to grow.

According to the U.S. Forest Service-maintained InciWeb page for the Waldo Canyon fire, the amount of acreage consumed as of the most recent estimate is 15,517 -- well over double the 6,200 acres said to have been scorched just 24 hours ago. That's still modest in terms of square miles compared to High Park, but because the conflagration sparked so much closer to populous areas, it's caused even more damage, and done it with a speed that's left residents and observers positively stunned. The Colorado Springs Gazette is reporting that Colorado Springs Fire Department staffers have worked through the night canvassing numerous neighborhoods (including Mountain Shadows, among those thought to have suffered the most devastation) to determine which of the homes there will be habitable in the future, and which are total losses. The number of evacuees continues to stand at approximately 32,000, but the fact that this sum hasn't risen substantially provides little comfort to those who now await confirmation that their residence and belongings are lost. The weather conditions proved ideal to feed, rather than squelch, the flames, with temperatures in the nineties or above, fanning winds of at least 12 miles per hour and humidity registering an arid 8 percent. And forecasts for today predict more of the same. The number of firefighters battling on the lines and in the skies is estimated at 764, and containment continues to linger at a measly 5 percent. The feds don't expect full containment until July 16, and after what happened yesterday, that's starting to seem optimistic. The fire's growth potential and the terrain on which it's feeding are both described as "extreme."

Look below to see the most detailed map of the area released thus far, albeit one that's out of date -- it was shared early yesterday -- as well as the latest videos from users and the media. That's followed by our previous coverage.

Page down to see our earlier coverage, including photos and videos. Update, 6:26 a.m. June 27: The High Park fire near Fort Collins is still far from containment, but at least the number of people forced from their homes remains somewhat stable for the moment. Not so with the Waldo Canyon fire, which is rapidly encroaching on a wide swath of Colorado Springs, forcing a reported 32,000 evacuations yesterday, and destroying homes. How many we don't know yet because of the blaze's ferocious progress.

The federal InciWeb page featuring the most up-to-date data on the fire (new info was added late last night) lists the acreage consumed thus far at 6,200, a fraction of High Park's size. But this wildfire is all about location. It's so close to Colorado Springs, as well as the Air Force Academy grounds, that it very quickly forced thousands of locals to flee. And the hot, dry, windy conditions have only fed the flames. The U.S. Forest notes that Red Flag conditions and wind shifts caused the fire to reach the south side of the Rampart Recreation Area and reservoir, and burnout operations to protect structures couldn't halt it. Around 4 p.m. yesterday, the fire progressed west to east, crossing Queens Canyon and establishing itself on the east side of the Front Range, prompting evacuations for Mt. Springs, Peregrine and Westwood -- huge, populous portions of the state's second largest city. Given the nearness of the fire to Springs proper, thick smoke has made breathing difficult -- and for many, dangerous. Moreover, containment is at just 5 percent, meaning there's still plenty of room for the zone to expand. Hence, firefighters presently numbered at 764 (a sum likely to grow) are concentrating on holding Rampart Ridge Road in an effort to prevent the fire from moving to the northeast and east, while at the same time trying to protect structures along the community's west border.

Simply put, it's an awful situation that's a long way from resolution. Look below to see more photos from the area, followed by our previous coverage.

Update, 6:16 a.m. June 26: Even as firefighters are presently holding their own against the mammoth High Park fire outside of Fort Collins, everything about the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs is getting bigger. More acres burned. More firefighters on the scene. More concern for residents who live all too close to the blaze. And more containment -- but only a little more. The federal InciWeb page for Waldo Canyon, updated just eight hours ago at this writing, puts the number of acres consumed at 4,500 -- almost a thousand more than this time yesterday, when supervisors noted that plenty of vulnerable land was within reach of the conflagration's main body. As such, the number of firefighters has been bumped up from 450 to 600. And while it's too early to estimate the cost of the blaze to date, there's little doubt it's well into seven figures by now. The good news thus far is that no structures or lives have been lost. But that's counterbalanced by the fuel supply, consisting of short needle conifers and Western long needle pine with what the feds refer to as a "heavy dead load," plus steep topography, southern exposure that further dries the landscape, and flames that have reached thirty feet in height. Highway 24 from the Teller/El Paso County line to Manitou Springs, the Pikes Peak Highway and the cog train remain closed, and a pre-evacuation notice has been given to residents of Woodland Park south of County Road 213 -- and that's in addition to the thousands of folks who remain out of their homes. But containment has moved from zero to 5 percent, and given that the fire is expected to be very active today, every little bit helps.

Here are some new user-generated videos of the Waldo Canyon fire, followed by our previous coverage.

Page down to see our previous coverage. Original item, 6:34 a.m. June 25: The High Park fire near Fort Collins has dominated Front Range headlines for over two weeks. But it's hardly the only wildfire afflicting the state, and more are popping up with terrifying regularity. Case in point: The Waldo Canyon fire in Pike National Forest, which led to the temporary evacuation of an entire town, Manitou Springs, among a total estimated at 11,000 people.

Like the High Park fire, the Waldo Canyon fire has a federal InciWeb page devoted to it. At this writing, the acreage involved is estimated at 3,600 -- tiny in comparison with High Park. But its proximity to populous areas resulted in the aforementioned evacuations. And while Manitou Springs residents (about 5,000 of them) were allowed back into their homes after 8 p.m. last night, thousands more in the vicinity, not far from Colorado Springs proper, can't follow suit yet.

Meanwhile, Garden of the Gods Park, as well as the visitors center, remain closed, as do Highway 24 from the Teller/El Paso County line to Manitou Springs, plus the Pikes Peak Highway and the cog train, not to mention a slew of campgrounds, including the Farish Air Force Academy Camp and FS Springdale Campground.

Around 450 firefighters are already on the scene, further straining resources that have been depleted by High Park and other wildfires in Colorado. There's no containment thus far, but also none of the losses associated with High Park, as noted in this tweet from the El Paso Sheriff's Office, shared late last night.

The feds expect the fire to remain very active today -- hence the impending arrival of a Type I incident management team. In the meantime, fire engines will be staged in evacuated subdivisions should structures be directly threatened. And there's certainly the potential of growth by 3,000 to 5,000 additional acres, with spread of the fire west into Cascade and Green Mountain Falls and south into Cedar Heights a disturbing possibility.

Look below to see another photo of the fire, followed by a slew of user-generated videos.

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More from our Follow That Story archive: "High Park fire update: 83K-plus acres burned, 248 homes confirmed destroyed."

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