FROM THE ARCHIVES: Dispatch tapes suggest Waldo Canyon Fire started near namesake trail

The Waldo Canyon invades Mountain Shadows area of Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday, June 26, 2012. (AP Photo/The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)


ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SATURDAY, JULY 7, 2012: Investigators have determined the point of origin for the Waldo Canyon Fire, but are still working on learning the fire's cause.

Lt. Jeff Kramer with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office says the location where the fire started will not be released at this time so as not to compromise the ongoing investigation.

Dispatch recordings suggest the fire may have started near the popular Waldo Canyon trail -- and might have started hours earlier than once believed. Though the fire didn't garner widespread notice until Saturday, June 23, smoke sightings in the Waldo Canyon area began to crop up in dispatch tapes from the evening of Friday, June 22.

"I just got a call from Manitou Springs, they have eyes on it. They don't have an exact location, but it's a plume of smoke ... might possible be a campfire," can be heard on the radio traffic from that night.

The recordings indicate that firefighters searched the roughly 7-mile trail trying unsuccessfully to find the source of smoke spotted in the area.

Saturday afternoon, new reports of smoke began to ring in by the dozen.

"Do we have reports of a fire, probably on the north side of Highway 24?" a unit asked shortly after noon.

"Affirmative," a dispatcher responded. "We have that out near Waldo Canyon trail."

"I've got binoculars on that thing," someone else radioed in a few minutes later. "This is now a crowning fire. It's running up the hill on the north face, northeast slope and moving pretty well."

Officially, the fire is listed as having started around noon on Saturday the 23rd. When asked about the possibility that the fire started Friday night, officials said it was still an open investigation.

Wildland investigators are still seeking the public's help in tracking down possible leads into the exact cause. U.S. Forest Service investigators ask that anyone who was in the Waldo Canyon area around the time the fire started, which was sometime before noon Saturday, call 719-477-4205.

Investigators are still working on getting back to everyone that has called and left a tip.