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Colorado Springs City Council member calls for changes to evacuation plans following Boulder Co. fires

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- As Boulder County begins the long road to recovery following the devastating Marshall Fire -- one Colorado Springs City Council member now says the city needs to take a long hard look" at local fire preparedness.

In November, the group Westside Watch presented a draft of an ordinance to the Colorado Springs City Council that would detail how long it takes to evacuate neighborhoods during a wildfire.

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.

“What we are pushing for is that you don’t keep adding all of this development if you don’t have a reasonable and fact-based clearance evacuation time,” said Bill Wysong with Westside Watch.

Colorado Springs City Council member Nancy Henjum says City Council was taking the matter seriously before the Marshall Fire. However, after nearly one thousand homes were destroyed in Boulder County last week, she's calling on her fellow council members to consider adopting an ordinance or aspects of the proposed ordinance to better prepare for wildfire evacuations in Colorado Springs.

"I feel horrible that it would potentially take something like the Marshall Fire to have us take a closer look at what we are doing here in Colorado Springs," Henjum told 13 Investigates. "I think there are a lot of potential recommendations in that ordinance that we need to take a good long hard look at as a city."

While Henjum is confident in the city's first responder's abilities to evacuate the public, she believes the city can be better prepared.

“I think we must at the very least understand what are the current evacuation times at the very least. Every resident should know that. Where they live and how long would it take them to get out,” Henjum said.

Back in November, Colorado Springs City Council President Tom Strand told 13 Investigates the city is working with police and fire officials to update the city's evacuation plans. However, he isn't sure Westside Watch's ordinance is the way to go about implementing change.

“What is really going to be in the best interest of public safety and what about the people that just want to stop development and growth," Strand said. "I think some people will have put information in this proposed ordinance that is really to stop the growth, other than what’s in the best interest of people’s safety?”

In February, City Council will meet for a work session to continue discussing fire evacuation preparedness in Colorado Springs and what was brought up in Westside Watch's proposed ordinance.

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

The study, first reported on by 13 Investigates, raises 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.

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Dan Beedie

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

Comments

11 Comments

  1. “While Henjum is confident in the city’s first responder’s abilities to evacuate the public…”

    Anyone who was involved in the complete mess that was the Waldo Canyon “evacuation” knows that your confidence in first responders conducting an orderly evacuation is misplaced. This city got lucky that thousands didn’t get incinerated in their cars that day.

    1. The evacuation would of gone 50% better if people did it in a orderly fashion and not try to screw each other trying to get out. Panicking people is half the problem in a evacuation.

  2. The city and county are allowing more and more developers to jam as many homes/units as possible on tiny lots. Pack em in like sardines. They discuss the dwindling water supply but approve these developments anyway. They should slow down, and build responsively.

  3. “Nancy Henjum says City Council was taking the matter seriously before the Marshall Fire.”
    .
    No, no you weren’t.
    .
    If you had been serious, you never would have allowed “Diverging Diamond” intersections that will not allow for evacuation outflows of traffic where both sides of the road are used for outgoing traffic.

    1. If both sides of the road are being used for outbound evacuation, then it doesn’t matter a hill of beans what kind of intersection there is, be it conventional, roundabout, or diverging diamond.

      1. You might want to pull up Google Earth and look at Fillmore and I-25. There are raised islands and berms in the roadway that would inhibit using both sides traveling in the same direction.
        .
        Ya know, a little research before you post will help you avoid looking like a F00L.

  4. City Council doesn’t care if we burn. Then they’d get to rebuild our city in their vision without worrying about little things like the people who live here.

  5. There has been no consideration of evacuations or water supplies by city counsel in recent years. It is time they start to think about it. Developers won’t consider those things. All they care about is money.

  6. Hundreds and hundred of new homes are coming. Big development planned near monument, a ton of town homes scheduled for the top of Fillmore hill, and more. Where’s the water? You think Fillmore is bad now, just wait. Oh, I know, let’s just reduce Fillmore down to one lane in each direction from mesa road to union and put in bike lanes.lets narrow doe garden of gods road too. It’ll be fine.

  7. Really if you look at the Colorado high risk wildfire map, no one should be living on the west side of the interstate. Ooops, too late. High risk wildfire areas represent only 5 percent of Colorado’s land, but people insist on establishing their permanent residence there. That whole Boulder area is in wildfire central. I check out wildfire maps before deciding on a home.

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