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Southern Colorado Prepares For Wildfire Season


On Wednesday in Colorado Springs, there were several fire training exercises.  One of them was a multi-agency simulated fire to show firefighters exactly what types of challenges they could face during the real thing.

Credit: Debra Bowie. Bowie says this was taken as her family evacuated on June 26, 2012. She says the community really pulled together that day and in the aftermath of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

A wildfire is burning homes in Southern California. Early reports were that the fire in Carlsbad, north of San Diego had burned 30 homes. Now, firefighters say it has destroyed just 3 homes and some apartments.

There are currently 11,000 homes evacuated. Schools in that area have already been canceled for Thursday. That's just one of six fires burning in San Diego County tonight.

Many of us in Southern Colorado can relate those in Southern California. We talked to some Mountain Shadows residents who said it’s hard to watch the fire coverage from California because it reminds them so much of what they went through two years ago, and for some again last year.

Richard Wood and his wife Carmen lost their house during the Waldo Canyon Fire. He hasn't followed the California fire coverage too closely, but remembers well watching our 11 News coverage during Waldo, and then the Black Forest fire.

"We know what they're going through and we're praying for them and that was tough too," Wood said.

For people in Southern California, these wildfires are likely just the start. Thousands of families are evacuated, including 11 News reporter Alyssa Chin's cousin Dena Everton and her family.

Back in Colorado Springs, firefighters know the peak wildfire season is looming. After two straight Junes with massive wildfires in the county, each topping the last as the state's most destructive, local firefighters know all too well the importance of preparation. On Wednesday, there were several fire training exercises. One of them was a simulated fire in the Broadmoor area involving several different agencies, to show firefighters exactly what types of challenges they could face during the real thing.

"The good news is it's happening so that when something like this happens--and it is inevitable, it is going to happen again--that we have these agreements in place and we are familiar with the terrain and what we need to do," task force leader Steven Thime said.

The Wood family, like so many others in Mountain Shadows and in Black Forest, lost everything. They've since rebuilt their home on the same lot.

"This is...there are some strong people in this neighborhood, as there are in Colorado Springs," Wood said.

Also Wednesday, at Peterson Air Force Base, the C-130s practiced their aerial firefighting.

Pilots made water drops on remote areas in the San Isabel National Forest and on BLM land. It's part of the pilot certification at Peterson to prepare for wildfire season.

While fire crews were preparing, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill in front of a room of first responders.

The bill will create a unified information website where anyone can get the latest details on current fires, prescribed burns, restrictions, preventative tips and more.

The website resource that was officially approved Wednesday is expected to be up and running in the next two months. It will cost about $27,000 dollars to build and maintain the website.


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