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Colorado Springs City Council review fire evacuation ordinance

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Colorado Springs City Council is now reviewing a proposed ordinance that fire evacuation experts say would set the standard for fire-prone communities across the country.

During a work session in November, Colorado Springs City Council members were presented with the results from a highly anticipated fire evacuation study - paid for by the group Westside Watch and other private citizens.

Monday, council members had an opportunity to ask questions about the study’s findings and the ordinance proposed by Westside Watch.

The study, first reported on by 13 Investigates, is raising serious concerns about just how long it will take to get residents in the city's most fire-prone neighborhoods to safety if a major wildfire were to break out.

The ordinance includes a requirement for the city to identify the current evacuation times within Colorado Springs neighborhoods and requires the city to provide evacuation studies for all new developments. The ordinance would also require the city to release evacuation maps for hazards from all cardinal directions and place a moratorium for all buildings in certain fire-prone neighborhoods throughout the city, or at least until the ordinance is passed.

“It was jaw-dropping the threat that (Colorado Springs’) face,” disaster evacuation expert from Louisiana State University Dr. Brian Wolshon said when asked if Colorado Springs should adopt the ordinance. “I can’t answer your question in terms of what I think you should do. Only you can answer that. But do I think it is a good idea? Absolutely I do.”

It’s unclear when or if Colorado Springs City Council will take action on this proposal. City staff are currently reviewing the study and will present their findings to the council in February.

At Monday’s work session, some council members expressed support for conducting evacuation studies, like Colorado Springs City Council Member Bill Murray. However, Murray isn’t sure if a new ordinance is a correct approach.

"We're talking about putting more and more property, more and more congestion,” said Murray. “I need a structure I need a template to make an informed decision of why I should or shouldn’t put a multi-story building or development right into a highly wooded area.“

Other council members had questions. The ordinance also requires that a target evacuation time of one hour be met when adding new development to a fire-prone neighborhood.

"Is that even feasible at all?" asked Colorado Springs City Council Member Nancy Henjum.

Last month, Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand told 13 Investigates he believes the ordinance is meant to discourage further development. However, the City Council President says the city is working with local police and fire officials to make a new and improved evacuation plan.

"We are not against development,” said Bill Wysong, the president of Westside Watch and the president of the Mountain Shadows Community Association, a community that was devastated by the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012. "Let's understand what the evacuation times are!”

At one point of Monday’s Work Session, Colorado Springs City Council President Pro Ten Randy Helms asked Westside Watch if they will honor or accept the decision made by the city when it comes to improving fire evacuations.

"It depends,” said Wysong. “I don't have any facts from them. That's like writing a blank check."

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Dan Beedie

Dan is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about Dan here.

Comments

12 Comments

  1. West Side Watch “it was OK for me to buy my little piece of paradise over here on the West side, but now that I have mine I don’t want anybody else crowding my space”. Oh “I mean it’s not safe”!

  2. The best answer is a no growth ordnance for ALL of Colorado Springs. This city just doesn’t have the water.

  3. Why is it not being discussed that there is no more water, electrical, or gas taps to go around. I was under the impression that the utility personnel had advised the mayor that he could build as many houses, apartments and other commercial buildings in the area, as long as he knew they would not be given these utilities because we are at capacity and can not handle more. Or is that not news.

    1. Where did you hear that no taps are available? I am in construction and have had no issues and utility people we work with say we have ample supply.

      1. There will come a time when there are no more taps here.
        I am sure you are aware of Fountain’s moratorium n any new construction because they only have enough water to serve their population. They even wanted to buy water from CSU for water coming up the SDS. CSU said very definitely- NOOO. That means CS has some awareness of controlling development if we can’t supply the water.
        Look at Lake Meade-the Colorado River cannot even feed it anymore.

        1. Fountain is on separate wells and have their own power company. They do have issues with infrastructure and resources. They are not CSU there are areas of Fountain that are trying to de-annex and hopefully be annexed by Colorado Springs so they can build more. Why? Because CSU has the capacity.
          CSU first obligation is to the city and no one else. They obtained a lot of water through using their water rights from Lake Pueblo, delivering it via the SDS. Did you know CSU is one of the largest water rights holders in the state.
          Lake Meade…… that is another story. That is owned by California and they are using water like it is going out of style. They are on no restrictions and they are draining all of the res. They are creating their own problem.

      2. A CI from within. I know, for me to state it this way it is hearsay to you, but it is a trusted source I know.

        1. I know a lot of people at CSU and do a lot of work with them. I would say I have an inside scoop on most everything they are doing. I have yet to hear anything of the sort. They are talking about more annexation because they have the capacity. Taking land in the county and trying to take some from Fountain. Why..??..?? because they can and they have the capacity and infrastructure to support it. CSU is one of the largest water right holders in the state. We pump water from Breckenridge to here. We have Lake Pueblo and even reservoirs down near Sugar City.
          Sounds like your CI is not very knowledgeable or is not telling the truth.

  4. Still thinking about the time city council told our hydrantless, single lane access neighborhood that there was no issue in an apartment building crippling our only exit with construction and a parking lot. They were also allowed exemption from the hillside distance ordinance for some unexplained reason.

  5. I don’t have any confidence in this city or council to do anything for the populace. Only the developers. As it was and ever shall be.
    What happened to Lauren Barnas? I just noticed that she was missing.

  6. A mas$ evacuation, where all outbound traffic must use both sides of the road, are a prime example of why these stup!d “diverging diamond” intersections are a bad idea.

  7. How about they review who investigates fires. No one has ever been arrested for Waldo and Black Forrest. The people that lost everything deserve answers. But as we already know their cause of fires if 99% homeless and cigarettes. Very sad.

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