Waldo Canyon Fire – Colorado – A Recap

As I sit here listening to wind-driven rain pelt my windows, I consider the drastic change from two weeks ago.  Ferociously quick, yet seemingly interminable, the Waldo Canyon Fire started on Saturday, June 23, and likely by tomorrow, Saturday, July 7, by the time I publish this, it will be nearly fully contained.

In the late afternoon of June 26th a large cloud of smoke covered our southern horizon.  We decided to head out and see what was happening.

4:06 p.m. - Heading south along Roller Coaster Road, I stop to take a picture of one of the three C-130 assigned to fighting the fire.  At least I presumed that's what it was.

4:06 p.m. – Heading south along Roller Coaster Road, I stop to take a picture of one of the three C-130 assigned to fighting the fire. At least I presumed that’s what it was.

I’ve already posted the raw pictures and videos I shot that day, but wanted to do a better job of presenting not only what we saw, but interpret it as well.  Our initial destination was a corner of the Flying Horse subdivision.  I estimated it would offer a good view of the Front Range without having to get too close.  We stopped on Silverton Road, 9.2 miles from the water tower just above the Mountain Shadows subdivision.  The water tower is a convenient reference point as it is visible in many of the photos.

4:22 p. m. - Panorama: Flying Horse - Silverton Road.

4:22 p. m. – Panorama: Flying Horse – Silverton Road.

The SmugMug gallery has a few more panoramas compiled from the pictures I took.  All of them were to try and capture the magnitude of the spectacle unfolding before us.

4:23 p.m. - Incredibly, the two girls seen in the foreground kept running sprints, seemingly oblivious to what was happening in the background.

4:23 p.m. – Incredibly, the two girls seen in the foreground kept running sprints, seemingly oblivious to what was happening in the background.

4:26 p.m. - to me this seems when the wind had a slight shift, and more of the hillside became visible.

4:26 p.m. – to me this seems when the wind had a slight shift, and more of the hillside became visible.

4:27 p.m. - I took another panorama, and we spoke of heading back home.

4:27 p.m. – I took another panorama, and we spoke of heading back home.

4:27 p.m. - except that as I took this picture I thought I saw something atop the hill at the center of the picture.

4:27 p.m. – except that as I took this picture I thought I saw something atop the hill at the center of the picture.

4:28 p.m. - it was clearer a half minute later.  Flames.   At the time we were still hearing that flames had not entered the canyon behind those hills. And yet, here they were, all the way across it and cresting the hill.

4:28 p.m. – it was clearer a half minute later. Flames.
At the time we were still hearing that flames had not entered the canyon behind those hills. And yet, here they were, all the way across it and cresting the hill.

We moved to what I hoped would be a better vantage point . . . the intersection of Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road, 8.3 miles away from the water tower.

4:33 p.m. - Panorama - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - It looked as if there were three distinct plumes of smoke, and the smoke itself had gotten a lot darker.

4:33 p.m. – Panorama – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – It looked as if there were three distinct plumes of smoke, and the smoke itself had gotten a lot darker.

4:33 p.m. - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - This is what a normal exposure shot looked like; blue skies and white clouds in the background, and a very dark and menacing black cloud dominating the foreground.

4:33 p.m. – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – This is what a normal exposure shot looked like; blue skies and white clouds in the background, and a very dark and menacing black cloud dominating the foreground.

4:37 p.m. - Panorama - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - for a moment it looked as if things were improving, and I shot this panorama . . .

4:37 p.m. – Panorama – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – for a moment it looked as if things were improving, and I shot this panorama . . .

4:37:51 p.m. - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - . . . then the smoke let us see what was happening.

4:37:51 p.m. – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – . . . then the smoke let us see what was happening.

4:38:09 p.m. - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - The fire was coming down the slope, and coming down fast.

4:38:09 p.m. – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – The fire was coming down the slope, and coming down fast.

4:38:21 p.m. - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - You could literally watch it jump, almost leap-frogging down the slope.

4:38:21 p.m. – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – You could literally watch it jump, almost leap-frogging down the slope.

4:38:24 p.m. - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - New hot spots would appear, and then burst into flames.

4:38:24 p.m. – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – New hot spots would appear, and then burst into flames.

4:38:32 p.m. - Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road - Note the time between shots . . . for a short while it looked as if it would just race down and engulf the whole area.

4:38:32 p.m. – Hwy. 83 and Shoup Road – Note the time between shots . . . for a short while it looked as if it would just race down and engulf the whole area.

Before Melisa reminded me I had video, I shot sequences which I aligned, cropped and animated.  The animation is slow so as to allow for examination of each frame, pausing if desired.  The animation is at 1080p, so if your screen allows it, you should be able to see a lot of detail.  

Note: these photos were shot at a high ISO because of the poor lighting.  Also, I processed them not for quality, but to show as much detail as possible.

When we saw this I decided to move closer.  The new location was on Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83.  At that location we were 7 miles from the water tower visible in the pictures.  The heading is nearly identical to that of the other location.

4:46:55 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - As I started shooting one of the helicopters was making a drop to the front of the advancing fire.

4:46:55 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – As I started shooting one of the helicopters was making a drop to the front of the advancing fire.

4:46:56 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - From the amount of fire, I did not think the drop would be very effective.

4:46:56 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – From the amount of fire, I did not think the drop would be very effective.

4:46:57 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - It seemed so little versus the whole of the advancing fire.

4:46:57 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – It seemed so little versus the whole of the advancing fire.

4:46:59 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - And yet, as we watched this and other drops, it did seem as if the advance was slowed, and in some instances even stopped.

4:46:59 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – And yet, as we watched this and other drops, it did seem as if the advance was slowed, and in some instances even stopped.

4:47:06 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - But up-hill of the drop the fire literally exploded as it hit new fuel.

4:47:06 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – But up-hill of the drop the fire literally exploded as it hit new fuel.

4:47:14 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - We were seven miles away, but it was a scary sight.

4:47:14 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – We were seven miles away, but it was a scary sight.

4:47:16 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83

4:47:16 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83

4:47:18 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - I don't tend to anthropomorphisms, but the only way I can characterize the sight is to say the fire was angry.

4:47:18 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – I don’t tend to anthropomorphisms, but the only way I can characterize the sight is to say the fire was angry.

4:47:21 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - There is a 13 shot sequence of these photos, spanning approximately 40 seconds.  aligned them, and clipped them to make another animation.

4:47:21 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – There is a 13 shot sequence of these photos, spanning approximately 40 seconds. aligned them, and clipped them to make another animation.

These photos did not clip as nicely as the first animation since I had panned the camera to follow the helicopter, hence there are some white borders to the slideshow.

The rest of the photos are to show some of the details of the event.

4:49:48 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83

4:49:48 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83

4:51:19 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - Many of the small peaks were by now on fire.

4:51:19 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – Many of the small peaks were by now on fire.

4:51:21 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - The sight reminded me of battle zones as depicted in various movies.

4:51:21 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – The sight reminded me of battle zones as depicted in various movies.

4:51:22 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - The far hills were also burning, and it looked as if a large part of Colorado Springs was about to go up in flames.

4:51:22 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – The far hills were also burning, and it looked as if a large part of Colorado Springs was about to go up in flames.

4:51:43 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - And yet, it appeared the fire was no longer making headway down the slopes.

4:51:43 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – And yet, it appeared the fire was no longer making headway down the slopes.

4:51:59 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - . . . or it was advancing much slower than just a few minutes prior.

4:51:59 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – . . . or it was advancing much slower than just a few minutes prior.

4:52:37 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - Some was likely due to the water drops, but I believe by this time there had been another subtle change in the wind.  The flames were no longer being driven, but seemed to burn in place.

4:52:37 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – Some was likely due to the water drops, but I believe by this time there had been another subtle change in the wind. The flames were no longer being driven, but seemed to burn in place.

4:52:55 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - I took another panorama series.

4:52:55 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – I took another panorama series.

4:54:44 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - A wide-angle shot to show what it looked like above us, seven miles away.

4:54:44 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – A wide-angle shot to show what it looked like above us, seven miles away.

4:54:56 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - I took another one in portrait mode to give a better idea of the cloud relative to the fire.

4:54:56 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – I took another one in portrait mode to give a better idea of the cloud relative to the fire.

4:56:10 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - Even though less violent, less aggressive, it did seem to us the fire eventually would reach the homes.

4:56:10 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – Even though less violent, less aggressive, it did seem to us the fire eventually would reach the homes.

4:56:52 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - The question was not so much if, but when.

4:56:52 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – The question was not so much if, but when.

4:58:14 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - Especially since flare-ups could still be seen.

4:58:14 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – Especially since flare-ups could still be seen.

4:58:28 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - Still, there was hope.  The possibility of those homes going up in flames was hard to accept.

4:58:28 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – Still, there was hope. The possibility of those homes going up in flames was hard to accept.

4:58:58 p.m. - Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 - . . . but hope was giving way to dread as flames, even if less ferocious, seemed determined to consume the hillside.

4:58:58 p.m. – Federal Drive, just off of Interquest Parkway / Hwy. 83 – . . . but hope was giving way to dread as flames, even if less ferocious, seemed determined to consume the hillsides.

During the above shoots I took a number of video clips.  All were hand held, and there was little thought to capturing an event so much as documenting instances.  All were hand-held, and done with a heavy lens.  I stitched the best ones and ran the stabilization feature in YouTube to make it easier to watch.  The movie below is in 1080P, and is best seen at that resolution.

Around this time we wondered what was happening at other fire boundaries, and decided to head home to watch the live updates.

5:14:38 p.m. - County Line Road and Hwy. 83 - 16.6 miles from the water tower - this shot of the smoke cloud is at the equivalent of a 50mm zoom, or roughly the same as human vision.

5:14:38 p.m. – County Line Road and Hwy. 83 – 16.6 miles from the water tower – this shot of the smoke cloud is at the equivalent of a 50mm zoom, or roughly the same as human vision.

5:14:47 p.m. - County Line Road and Hwy. 83 - 16.6 miles from the water tower - this shot of the smoke cloud is at the equivalent of a 25mm zoom.

5:14:47 p.m. – County Line Road and Hwy. 83 – 16.6 miles from the water tower – this shot of the smoke cloud is at the equivalent of a 25mm zoom.

5:20:15 p.m. - County Line Road near Furrow Rd - 14.7 miles from the water tower - this shot of the smoke cloud is at the equivalent of a 25mm zoom.

5:20:15 p.m. – County Line Road near Furrow Rd – 14.7 miles from the water tower – this shot of the smoke cloud is at the equivalent of a 25mm zoom.

Notice the higher levels of the smoke formed a cloud with a bottom much like a real cloud.

5:20:27 p.m. - Panorama - County Line Road near Furrow Rd - The smoke was heading North, and would have settled over where we live, but an Easterly wind actually turned it away from us at approximately this location.

5:20:27 p.m. – Panorama – County Line Road near Furrow Rd – The smoke was heading North, and would have settled over where we live, but an Easterly wind actually turned it away from us at approximately this location.

5:22:27 p.m. - Panorama - County Line Road near Furrow Rd - A single shot with my widest zoom lens.

5:22:27 p.m. – Panorama – County Line Road near Furrow Rd – A single shot with my widest zoom lens.

5:22:29 p.m. - Panorama - County Line Road near Furrow Rd - A panorama shot with the same lens, shot in portrait orientation and spanning a little over 200 degrees.

5:22:29 p.m. – Panorama – County Line Road near Furrow Rd – A panorama shot with the same lens, shot in portrait orientation and spanning a little over 200 degrees.

These were the last shots I took, and it was depressing to think what might have been happening in the distance.  We went home, and like many around the country we watched the drama unfold on live TV.

A little bit of background information.  The following screen captures are from Bing Maps and Google Earth.  I could not figure out how to embed them, so I took screen captures.  I claim no rights to these images, are shown here for reference only, and will be removed if requested I do so.

The first map is a screen capture from Bing Maps.  Unfortunately I could not get the exact orientation as in the pictures, but the Mountain Shadow water tower is clearly visible about three-fourths of the way up.  At the bottom is the Peregrine subdivision. The quarry separates the two.

Bing Maps - Mountain Shadow and Peregrine subdivisions

Bing Maps – Mountain Shadow and Peregrine subdivisions – this is saved in WordPress. Click to open in a new tab or window.

The Google Earth image shows the approximate relationship of the peaks that were burning, the Water tower, and the homes nearby.

Google Earth - Mountain Shadows and Peregrine subdivision aligned approximately as in the photographs.

Google Earth – Mountain Shadows and Peregrine subdivision aligned approximately as in the photographs. Click for larger view.

Here are a few links with information and pictures of the Mountain Shadow and Peregrine subdivisions properties lost to the fire.  As we now know, lives were lost as well.

http://www.denverpost.com/wildfires/ci_20962928 -map of the area and aerial photos of the houses before and after the fire.

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20977993/map-waldo-canyon-fire-impacted-properties?source=rss – map of destroyed homes linked to assessed values. 

This is some background information that might interest people:

http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20981486/colorado-wildfires-public-policies-add-danger?source=rss

The link to the Waldo Canyon Fire updates: http://inciweb.org/incident/2929/

As usual, thanks for visiting and reading my stuff.  All of the above photos and videos are also in SmugMug (click HERE, or on any photo).

<><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><o><><><><><><><><><>

About awards: Blogger Awards          About “likes”:   Of “Likes”, Subscriptions, and Stuff

Note: to those who may click on “like”, or rate the post; if you do not personally hear from me, know that I am sincerely appreciative, and I thank you for noticing what I do.  

. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
This entry was posted in Colorado, Photography Stuff, Travel Stuff and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Waldo Canyon Fire – Colorado – A Recap

  1. Your photos of this fire are amazing. I’m so glad that the weather has changed and you’re getting some rain. I’m sure that’s quite a relief for everyone. It’s too bad there had to have been so much destruction. I’m glad you and Melissa are safe.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      There is a person who was contracted by the Forest Service and the response teams to gather photos and videos for a training video. Apparently they liked the photos as well, and are planning on using them.

      Don’t know if they will or not, but if they do they are supposed to supply me with a link. I’ll update the post if that happens.

      Like

    • I too want to add my admiration of your work in a gut renching situation. As others have expressed do glad you are safe. The forest service would be foolish NOT to use your work.

      Like

  2. Your pictures and videos are astonishing. Considering the enormity of the fire and the speed at which it seemed to be moving, seven miles doesn’t seem to be very much distance at all, and I am very glad that you and Melisa are okay, and that the rain has arrived. What a terrifying thing a forest fire can be! Thank you for sharing this…and if you do get a link, it would be very interesting to see how much of your photography shows up in the training video.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      The next day we started to pack in case of a called-for evacuation. For a while there it looked dicey, and I think we were lucky the weather let up a bit, and let the firefighter gain a measure of control.

      I will post a link if they use any of my stuff. Thanks.

      Like

  3. I don't look like a log says:

    Good job. How fitting that you were down hill where you had photographic access. We could see and smell a bit of smoke at times, but no flame. We did see flame from Springer Fire though, and that was enough to cause me to pack a bug-out bag.
    We got a soaker yesterday; saw it in Woodland Park also. I heard they had a good rain in the Springs, too. Maybe we won’t have to deal with something like again this for a while.

    Like

  4. Jerry B says:

    Truly incredible pictures Emilio!! As good as the photos are, I cannot imagine the vast scale of this fire. The huge smoke cloud hanging in the sky is jaw-dropping. I wonder where it will end up. This is like a glimpse of armageddon. Glad to hear you are both safe and did not have to evacuate. Let it rain, rain, rain !!!

    Like

  5. bluelyon says:

    Amazing, scary photos. Thanks for sharing them.

    Like

  6. Terri says:

    Great photos and timeline. I can see how these photos could be used by the Forest Service. So glad for rain! We saw one plume of smoke from this side of the mountain yesterday, 7/8, I don’t believe we will see anymore after last night’s pounding rain, such a contrast.

    Like

  7. Gunta says:

    Your post brought back memories of a similar fire during our last summer in Utah (’93) not far from Scott’s territory. We watched the fire come racing down a mountain ridge much like the one you shot. Watching huge trees eaten up in flames in moments was impressive. We had the van packed and ready to go. Our canyon fire was maybe a mile from our house when luckily the wind shifted. It’s all very exciting and terrifying at the same time. I didn’t get much sleep that night for getting up to look out the window to be sure the fire didn’t come alive again. The smell was pretty ghastly, too. The smoke filled the sky and hovered over Salt Lake City. It looked like something out of Dante.

    Your fire is far more tragic since it caused fatalities and wiped out so many homes. Ours was in a more remote area with very few homes in the way. I feel for the folks who have been touched by this event.

    Like

    • disperser says:

      The area is still being affected by the fire. There have been a number of flash floods and mud slides because of the loss of vegetation. That will continue to be the case for years to come. It must also be a difficult thing for the people to rebuild in an area that now looks like a war zone.

      Some will not have the choice to do otherwise because of the way insurance works if one has a mortgage.

      Like

  8. Pingback: Writing, Photography, and NNWM-2K15 | Disperser Tracks

  9. Pingback: It’s Black and White – 2 | Disperser Tracks

Voice your opinion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.