Tech. Sgt. Chris Powell
Air Force News Service
6/28/2012 – COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AFNS) — Firefighters continued to battle several fires that burned into the evening hours in Waldo Canyon near here June 27.
The fires, which have burned more than 15,000 acres, began spreading to the southwestern corner of the Academy in the early morning, causing base officials to evacuate residents, with only mission essential personnel allowed onto the installation.
Officials estimated that the fire had spread to about 10 acres of land belonging to the Academy.
“This is absolutely the worst wildfire I’ve ever seen,” said Ernst Piercy, the Academy’s fire chief. “Essentially, this fire represents one of the most difficult fires in many years here in Colorado. In fact, it is considered the number one priority in the nation for resource allocation. That brings us lots of resources.
Currently, more than 90 firefighters from the Academy, along with assets from Air Force Space Command; F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo.; Fort Carson, Colo.; and the local community continue to fight the fire.
“Fire crews have been successful heretofore in keeping the fire below a fire road we had set as our initial anchor point,” Piercy said. “To this point, we’ve been successful in holding the fire to the southwestern corner of the Academy where there are no structures.”
To keep the fire contained, firefighters have been using helicopters to drop water and fire retardent, creating fire break lines with bulldozers and using hand tools to clear brush to attempt to funnel the fire, Piercy said. Fire break lines are stretches of land that bulldozers clear to ensure there isn’t brush or trees that could fuel the fire.
“Our best chance for success is to use both natural and man-made barriers,” the fire chief said. “We’ve cut a lot of dozer lines, we’ve removed a lot of excess brush from the are that’s affected and we have an anchor point using air drops, repellants and break points.”
While the majority of the firefighters were working to contain the blaze, others were clearing areas around base housing to decrease the odds of the fire spreading throughout the base.
“We (clear) around the house, we make sure there’s no brush or debris around it, we make dirt paths and clear trees around the house,” said Airman 1st Class Daniel Garcia, an Academy firefighter. “We pretty much just try to clear as much away from the house as we can so that if it does catch fire, there will be a break in between.”
About 75 people from here have evacuated to Fort Carson’s special event center and youth services center where they’re being provided shelter, according to a Fort Carson public affairs official. Others are staying with family, friends or at nearby hotels until it’s safe to return to the Academy.