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Entries in Wildfire (30)

Friday
Jul192013

California Town Is 'Probably Toast' If Wildfire Arrives

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(IDYLLWILD, Calif.) -- The town of Idyllwild, Calif.'s existence is under threat from a raging inferno and a 30,000-foot column of smoke hovering above the community as thousands of residents evacuate.

The wind-whipped fire has burned more than 35 square miles in the mountains near Palm Springs, which is near the popular tourist town of Idyllwild. Flames have engulfed seven homes and numerous other buildings as nearly 3,000 firefighters, 17 water-dropping helicopters and 10 air tankers have been assigned to battle the blaze.

"Everybody's known that if the fire ever came over that ridge, Idyllwild is probably toast," resident Malcolm Oakes told ABC News.

U.S. Forest Service officials say battling the blaze is a national priority, and Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha-Tulley said the next few days will be crucial for the area.

"Embers get into the column and can drop anywhere," she said. "For the next two days, it is predicted to go right over the top of this town."

Most of the nearly 4,000 people who live in the historic artists' community have evacuated. Some are unsure of what they'll do if their homes are destroyed.

"If I lose this house, I will go live in the mountains somewhere else, again," Rosalee, an area resident, told ABC News.

Claudia Posey, another evacuee, said it's something she could hardly imagine happening to her.

"I have seen it on TV a bunch of times and it was hard to relate to, and now it just feels indescribable," she said.

Raging about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, the Idyllwild blaze is threatening other nearby towns, including the outer edge of Palm Springs. For some families, it's already too late.

"There is nothing that you can do, and the fire was doing 15 miles an hour and it just came right on top of them," resident Bob Parker said.

There's no end in sight, with wind and even dry lightening possible.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, the extreme heat has triggered thunderstorms, and tragedy, when a lightning bolt struck nine farm workers in Fort Collins, Co., leaving two in critical condition.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jul042013

Arizona Wildfire Now Partially Contained

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images(YARNELL, Ariz.) -- The Arizona wildfire that killed 19 men continues to burn, however, crews are making progress with the flames as the blaze is about 45 percent contained.

The conditions are very dry, so officials are being overly cautious. They hope to deliberately work to determine the best way to operate against the flames, according to Fire Information Officer Suzanne Flory.

Nearly 700 firefighters are working to contain and extinguish the flames, reports ABC's affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix. The goal is to contain the east side of the wildfire on Thursday and if all goes as planned, some residents could begin returning to their neighborhoods this weekend.

Memorial services for the 19 firefighters killed are scheduled for July 9 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun152013

Evacuation Orders in Colorado Wildfire Will Be Slowly Lifted

Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Authorities are placing the containment figure on the Black Forest fire at 45 percent, saying that evacuation orders will begin being slowly lifted.

The wildfire has destroyed nearly 500 homes and is being considered one of the most destructive in Colorado history. Nonetheless, officials are urging residents not to attempt to get around the evacuation orders. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said, "When it is safe and we can open it up, we want to open it up."

Fire crews got a major break Friday after thunderstorms cooled the area down. Decreased winds have also helped to calm the situation, but fire officials say there are still hot spots that could be the catalyst for another fire to burn if drier conditions continue.

Police on Thursday began investigating the deaths of two people found within the fire zone as the wildfire turned deadly.

Two bodies were found in their garage near their car with the doors open Thursday. It appears they were loading last-minute items and had waited too long before evacuating, according to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, who says friends told police they had just talked to the couple who died trying to escape the flames.

"They could see a glow to the West. They were packing their personal belongings to get out," Maketa says friends of the couple told authorities.

Though Maketa has given no indication that the fire was intentionally set to the home, the police have started a criminal investigation into the pair's deaths.

More than 40,000 people were under mandatory orders to evacuate on Thursday, some of which were lifted Friday. During early evacuations, some people refused to leave the area, prompting fears that more bodies could be found.

Sheriff Maketa said Thursday that approximately 38,000 people and 13,000 homes have already been evacuated or affected by the evacuations.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Jun152013

President Obama Committed to Helping Colorado Deal with Wildfire

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama spoke with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper Friday to reaffirm his commitment to helping Colorado as it deals with the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

The White House said Saturday that Hickenlooper updated the president about the current conditions on the fire just outside Colorado Springs.

President Obama expressed his concern for the damage that has been caused by the fire that started Tuesday and gave his condolences to the families who have lost relatives.

Nearly 500 homes have been destroyed and two people were killed preparing to flee from the wildfire.  Authorities have lifted some evacuation orders and thousands of people are expected to return to their homes Saturday.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug052012

Oklahomans Return to Find Little Left After Wildfires

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(LUTHER, Okla.) -- Nearly 100 buildings, including five-dozen homes, have been destroyed in the past two days in Oklahoma, where severe weather contributed to the rapid spread of a number of wildfires. Hundreds of people were quickly evacuated from their homes as the blazes approached.

Residents returning to their neighborhoods Saturday found little left, after hot, dry weather and strong winds turned brush fires into firestorms. Investigators believe the fire in Luther, Okla., was started deliberately.

Oklahoma Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Mary Myers said there were “no arrests, no suspects” but deputies were “working around the clock” to find anyone responsible.

The fires are now largely under control, and residents who were forced out of their homes are returning to their neighborhoods, and finding little there.

The fire in Luther burned about 4 square miles, leaving families to sift through the ashes.

“We just barely got pictures out, we got a few clothes,” Tracy Streeper told ABC News. “We had maybe 30 minutes. Memories, home, everything’s gone.”

Next door, Casey Strahan took stock of what was left of his home.

“In a tornado, you can pick stuff up, and you dig through and you find things that are salvageable,” Strahan told ABC. “You come here, and you move anything, and it turns to dust.”

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin early this morning visited with families affected by the Luther fire.

“It’s heartbreaking to see families that have lost so much,” Fallin said after talking with some who lost their homes. “I gave them a hug, told them I was sorry.”

Her emergency managers have told her this year could bring one of the worst wildfire breakouts in the state’s history.

“This has been a very, very tough situation, when it’s over 110 degrees, and you’ve got huge flames and massive fires,” Gov. Fallin said.

Oklahomans say they will rebuild, but the weather shows no signs of cooling down, and the probability of more fires remains high. The weather is similar to last year’s, when state agencies ended up fighting 1,800 fires throughout the state.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Jul022012

Many Colorado Wildfire Evacuees Allowed to Return Home

Chris Schneider/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Some 7,000 residents of the Colorado Springs area were allowed to return to their homes on Sunday, but for many, they returned to a pile of rubble left behind by a wildfire that destroyed some 350 homes.  The blaze is now 45 percent contained.

Anne Marie Borrego of the American Red Cross says many evacuees of the Waldo Canyon wildfire had been under an evacuation order for days and had no idea what they would find when they returned home.  Many found they had lost everything.

Colorado officials say the number of evacuees from the wildfire now stands at 3,000, down from more than 30,000 at the peak of the fire.

Colorado Springs city official Steve Cox is warning residents that a burn ban is still in effect as the Fourth of July approaches.  Cox says the temptation to light fireworks may be great for some folks, but another wildfire would be the worst thing that could happen to the community.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun292012

Colorado Wildfire Claims One Life, Destroys Nearly 350 Homes

Chris Schneider/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- The wildfire raging near Colorado Springs, Colo., has claimed one life and at least 347 homes, officials announced on Thursday.

At a late night news conference, Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said the remains of one human being were discovered at a residence that was destroyed by flames in the Mountain Shadows subdivision.  Another person from the same address is missing, he said.

Earlier in the day, Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach said hundreds of homes had been destroyed by the Waldo Canyon wildfire, and that city officials were working hard to gather information for evacuated residents to determine what neighborhoods were affected by the disaster.

"We are working through the process, which is very painstaking, of assessing every address to make sure that we have absolutely accurate information on each address," Bach said.

More than 1,000 firefighters are working to tame the blaze, which has already torched 16,750 acres.  It is not yet known what caused the fire.

On Friday, President Obama signed a disaster declaration for Colorado.

"The President today declared a major disaster exists in the State of Colorado and ordered Federal aid to supplement State and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the High Park and Waldo Canyon Fires beginning on June 9, 2012, and continuing," the White House said in a statement.

Obama will tour the areas hit hardest by the Waldo Canyon wildfire on Friday.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun282012

Colorado Wildfire Sends Residents to Shelters

Chris Schneider/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Pumping thick, black, suffocating smoke into the sky, the wildfire in Colorado Springs, Colo., has left 32,000 people scurrying for shelter and officials struggling to assess the damage.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Peter Carey said officials had no plans to release the number of homes destroyed, insisting that residents have a right to be told first, in private.

But the blazing inferno has kept officials at a distance. Conditions were unkind to firefighters on Wednesday as 65 mph winds refueled the fires in Waldo Canyon.  Recent aerial photos show entire neighborhoods wiped out.  
As of Thursday morning, residents don't know when they will be able to return home, or even if their home survived.

More than 1,000 firefighters are on the ground and many of the nation's fleet of C-130 planes are dumping retardant from the skies above.  Four of those C-130 planes dropped more than 60,000 gallons of retardant over Waldo Canyon Wednesday.

Satellite images from NASA show even those lucky to escape the flames might not escape the chocking plume of smoke over Colorado's second-largest city and beyond.

In Colorado Springs, doctors say the air quality right now is at least 10 times worse than it was before the fire.  Dr. Timothy Rummel says about 40 people have been to the emergency room because of smoke inhalation.

With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, authorities reminded residents to respect a ban on fireworks.  

President Obama will tour fire-stricken areas of Colorado on Friday and thank firefighters battling some of the worst fires to hit the American West in decades.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun272012

Wildfire Menaces Colorado Springs, 32,000 Flee

Chris Schneider/Getty Images(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- A western wildfire being fueled by strong winds and scorching temperatures has burned past firefighters' defenses and is menacing the city of Colorado Springs. Firefighters battling the out of control blaze, which has grown to more than 15,000 acres, say they are bracing for worsening conditions.

"We expect further trouble from the weather today," said one official. "Thunderstorms present a unique problem for us. The wind can come in any direction from those ... at any time with pretty strong gusts."

About 1,000 firefighters are battling the Waldo Canyon blaze, which jumped to houses after getting refueled by 65 mph winds. About 32,000 people from Colorado Springs had to flee to safety. The fires are just 5 percent contained.

According to the Defense Department, four C-130s from the Air Force had released nearly 60,000 gallons of retardant over the canyon as of this morning.

Forty homes appeared to go up flames but authorities would not release an updated number. At the U.S. Air Force Academy, 700 cadets and personnel were ordered to leave.

Three shelters have been opened for evacuees and residents were urged to remain inside because of the unhealthy air quality.

There were no reports of injuries or new evacuations. Authorities said they had not yet determined the fire's cause despite reports of arson.

The windy weather and record heat hampered authorities' efforts to fight wildfires in the surrounding states as well. In addition to Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana are under red-flag warnings, which warn of extreme fire danger.

One woman was found dead Tuesday after authorities revisited an evacuated area in Utah. Four homes were destroyed in northern Montana and a state of emergency was issued by the governor for four counties.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun272012

Colorado Wildfire Rages On, Forces 32,000 to Evacuate

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- About 32,000 people have been evacuated indefinitely from their homes near Colorado Springs, Colo., as a wildfire there continues to grow and threaten homes, officials said Tuesday night.

The Waldo Canyon blaze, which was described Tuesday night by Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown as a "firestorm of epic proportions," also prompted the closure of the Air Force Academy, where a new class of cadets are due to report on Thursday.  It is not yet known if that schedule still stands.

Authorities said 65 mile per hour winds and near 100 degree temperatures on Tuesday helped the fire spread and bust through lines of containment.

Wednesday's forecast won't offer much help either to the more than 800 firefighters who are battling the flames.  Temperatures are expected to reach the high 90s and no significant rain is in sight.

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