Colorado Fire Threatens Air Force Academy

One of the fires ravaging Colorado is threatening the Air Force Academy:


(CBS/AP) WOODLAND PARK, Colo. – A stubborn and towering wildfire jumped firefighters’ perimeter lines in the hills overlooking Colorado Springs, forcing frantic mandatory evacuation notices for more than 9,000 residents, destroying an unknown number of homes and partially closing the grounds of the sprawling U.S. Air Force Academy.

Heavy smoke and ash billowed from the mountain foothills west of the city. Bright yellow and orange flames flared in the night, often signaling another home lost to the Waldo Canyon Fire, the No. 1 priority for the nation’s firefighters.

Interstate 25, which runs through Colorado Springs, was briefly closed to southbound traffic Tuesday. All told, officials said, evacuation orders affected as many as 32,000 residents.

“It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said after flying over the 9-square-mile fire late Tuesday. “It’s almost surreal. You look at that, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen before.”

With flames cresting a ridge high above its breathtaking, 28-square-mile campus, the Air Force Academy told more than 2,100 residents to evacuate 600 households. There was no immediate word on whether a new class of 1,045 cadets would report as scheduled on Thursday.

A curtain of flame and smoke teetered above the academy’s Falcon Stadium; billowing gray clouds formed a backdrop to its aluminum, glass and steel Cadet Chapel, an icon of the academy. Elsewhere, police officers directing traffic and fleeing residents covered their faces with T-shirts and bandanas to breathe through the smoke.

That photograph above, from a local television station, depicts the fire as it moves down the mountains. The football stadium you see in the foreground is Falcon Stadium, where the Air Force Falcons play their home games. In addition, hundreds of homes have already been burned and thousands more are threatened.

Stephen Green, who lives in the area has a detailed update of the status of the Waldo Canyon fire this morning, and he adds this:

It’s unbelievably dry here, and it’s been record-setting hot, too. That’s why every report you read about this fire has somebody saying something about how fast and aggressive it is. Melissa and I are pinning our hopes on the Air Force. For the fire to reach us, it would have to first get through the Academy — and we can’t imagine the Air Force allowing that to happen.

Here’s hoping that Stephen, his family, and everyone else in the area stays safe and this fire ends quickly, because, it looks terrifying:

For those in the area, some wildfire survival tips.

Update: The Denver Post has a collection of more amazing photographs.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. sam says:

    I say we cut the federal firefighting budget severely. I don’t live in Colorado — why the hell should I care if it burns to the ground?

  2. My aunt and uncle’s home is just a few miles southeast of the fire, although it seems to be moving mostly northeast for the time being.

  3. Herb says:

    The sad thing…..this is only one of the wildfires currently raging in our state. There’s one eating up Boulder, another one just outside Ft. Collins, and one near Durango as well. No rain, high triple-digit temps, forests filled with dry beetle-killed trees.

    And it’s only June!

  4. Gustopher says:

    I suppose that this, like all other natural disasters, is divine vengeance about something or other. Perhaps God is upset that we keep bombing brown people.

    Makes more sense than the crazy preacher claims about Katrina.

  5. Ironically, the NWS has issued a flash flood watch for the area where the fire is:

    I’m not sure if that’s good news or bad news.

  6. Ole Sarge says:

    We have several friends that are affected by this… Not living in base housing, but retired from the military and living in the area.

    All of these fires are part of the “beetle damage” are all the “Earth First” groups that DID NOT ALLOW the harvesting of trees infected by the beetles (cull when the beetles were limited, might have saved thousands of acres now). Those dead trees provide the fuel for the wild fires burning. Droughts have their part, but that is part of the ecological system of the west… no amount of human interference will change that in the long run.

    Too bad the people that lost their homes are not the “Earth First” types.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    @Gustopher: Perhaps it’s god’s way of telling us we should not be screwing his planet up.

  8. Davebo says:

    Do you really think God is going to let the Air Force Academy of all places burn in a wild fire?

    It’s one of his greatest recruiting operations.

  9. Phillip says:

    @Davebo: I think God is disgusted with the “recruiting” that goes on at the Air Force Academy. But then, my God believes in free will.