The Waldo Canyon fire presented an unparalleled challenge for the first responders and leadership of Colorado Springs. For the first time since the fire was declared fully contained, Mayor Steve Bach shared his reflections about the experience.
Bach told 11 News reporter Patrick Nelson that he felt helpless while he watched the fire rush into the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, where it would destroy 346 homes.
“It felt like the end of the world in that moment to me,” he said. “We were facing east to the media and behind us were the mountains...the commander turned around to point to the map and his mouth dropped open. I was watching him, so I turned around and saw the fire jump two ridges to the top of Mountain Shadows...exactly that same time the wind picked up to 60 miles per hour. That was a very sinking moment.”
The mayor said there was a clear plan in place for firefighters and police officers, but admitted the civilian side of the city government could have been better prepared.
“I think we could've done a better job there, in hindsight. But you know what? The fog of war is just unbelievable. I would call this that, in a sense. It's just confusing and we wanted to make sure we got it right, and I just appreciate people understanding how we try to do that.”
Asked about President Barack Obama’s visit to tour the wildfire’s devastation, Bach described the commander-in-chief as being very supportive.
“We had, I thought, a very engaging conversation on a lot of fronts,” he said. “I think the people should appreciate the office of the president of the United States for taking the time to come here along with our governor. I'm not going to worry about the political overtones to that. He spent two-and-a-half hours here, he urged me over and over, ‘Make sure you get in touch with my people if you have any problems.’”
The mayor also shared his prediction for recovery, saying he thinks the city faces three to five years of work to fully recover.
“We’re going to stick with it until we’re there,” Bach said.