The Waldo Canyon fire, the most destructive wildfire in state history, could be contained well ahead of schedule, with officials now predicting reaching 100 percent containment by Friday.
As of Thursday night, the fire is 95 percent contained.
Flush with the positive news that full containment was likely imminent, city and fire officials addressed the media Thursday morning for what should be the last public briefing.
"There's still a little bit of work to do to get the fire to 100 percent containment," Incident Commander Rich Harvey said, downplaying the enormous strides firefighters have made on the fire, which just over one week earlier seemed as though it was burning out of control.
The northeast side of the fire, located behind Blodgett Peak, is the only area still not contained, Harvey said, explaining that the rugged terrain provided more challenges than the other parts of the fire. Helicopters are still being used to make water drops in the area.
"When there has been no smoke visible and no heat detected for 24 hours, we will be comfortable that there will be no potential growth and will call it 100 percent contained," Harvey said.
Harvey assured the public that even after total containment, crews would continue to guard the fire.
"Even after 100 percent containment, there will be firefighters monitoring and mopping up hot spots," Harvey said.
The only areas of the fire that continue to grow are interior "islands," previously unburned sections inside the perimeter. Firefighters' focus will shift to those spots once the fire is completely contained.
Investigators have not determined a cause for the Waldo Canyon fire, but have pinpointed a point of origin. Lt. Jeff Kramer with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office said that spot would not be released at this time so as not to compromise the investigation.
One matter of concern to officials as Colorado enters the monsoon season is the possibility of flash floods in burn areas, now that these areas, once covered in trees, have been left exposed. A task force has been established to look at flooding risk.
Harvey took a moment Thursday to address the deluge of support the city of Colorado Springs and surrounding areas have given firefighters, noting that rainy conditions this week failed to deter the hundreds who gathered to greet firefighters during their shift change.
"During my 30-plus years of fighting fires, never have I seen such an outpouring of support," Harvey said. 'Words can't tell how much it is appreciated. Firefighters want the community to know they are grateful for the support."
-The Joint Information Center has been closed, but there are still numbers available for people seeking information about the fire. Those with fire-related questions can call 719-328-4333 or 719-328-4334.
-Those in Colorado Springs with questions regarding evacuations or utilities can call 719-955-0742 or go to springsgov.com.
-Evacuees can have their insurance adjusters check out their properties between 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
-Pete Carey with the Colorado Springs Police Department says that an anonymous citizen has established a reward for anyone with information about people breaking into cars and homes in evacuated areas, if that tip leads to an arrest. The reward is up to $50,000, and will be split accordingly if several individuals provide successful tips. Carey announced Thursday that one more car has been broken into in evacuated areas.
-A team has been established to rehabilitate the area that was burned.
-Any smoke seen Thursday is likely coming from the interior "islands."
-Monday, July 9, at 6 p.m. It'z will open its doors to children whose homes have been damaged or destroyed in the fire. Families should have received information via e-mail.
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