COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — “Homes were destroyed, belongings were lost and infrastructure was damaged, but this community was resolute,” said Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers.
Hundreds of community members came together to honor a resilient community five years after a raging fire destroyed 347 homes.
Colorado Springs City Council has declared June 26 as Waldo Canyon Fire Commemoration Day. The fire started on June 23, 2012 and was fully contained on July 10.
The Waldo Canyon Fire burned for 17 days and destroyed 18,000 acres.
The celebration showed that even though homes can be destroyed, the community will not be reduced to embers.
“It really is impressive,” said Lori Meister, who lives near the Mountain Shadows area. “This park is more popular now, people are out and about more. It’s actually strengthened the community, just to be a part of that is really cool.”
“The fire cresting the Front Range and rushing downhill at 50 mph,” recalled Fire Chief Ted Collas.
“Emotions were high,” said Colorado Springs Emergency Management Director Bret Waters. “This was certainly a very momentous event and very stressful for those involved.”
Nick Gledich, a resident of Mountain Shadows, said nearly every house in his neighborhood was burned to ashes, except his.
“Of course we thought we lost everything,” said Gledich. “It was an odd feeling at the time. We felt guilty, we didn’t really know how to feel.”
A majority of the homeowners have rebuilt, but this celebration also served as a reminder that disaster can spark at any time.
“Individual preparedness for us to be prepared, we know that unfortunately history repeats itself and there’s going to be future disasters,” said Waters.
The Waldo Canyon fire was the most destructive fire in Colorado history, until the Black Forest Fire engulfed 500 homes and destroyed 14,000 acres just one year later.