For the last six days, residents of Colorado Springs, Colorado have watched in horror as a wildfire started about ten miles to the northwest and then eventually made its way into the city, burning more homes than any wildfire in the state's history. Dubbed the Waldo Canyon Fire, after the canyon in which it began, the now 16,000-acre wildfire has destroyed at least 346 homes, most of those going up in flames on Tuesday, when thunderstorms generated wind gusts of up to 65 miles per hour, driving flames down the side of the mountains west of the city at alarming speed.
At 346 homes destroyed, the preliminary estimate offered Thursday from Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach would easily make the Waldo Canyon fire the most destructive in the state's history. Ironically, the second-most destructive at the moment is also still burning, as the High Park fire, burning west of Ft. Collins north of Colorado Springs, has consumed 257 homes at last count. With the Waldo Canyon fire. The High Park fire is also the state's largest fire by acreage, at over 180,000, and is still more than 50,000 acres behind the Hayman fire, which burned 238,000 acres northwest of Colorado Springs in June 2002.
As of Thursday evening, there were still no deaths or injuries reported as a result of the Waldo Canyon fire, though police did confirm that a handful of people were missing, without offering an exact number. The missing people had not been reported missing by friends or relatives, police said, but had lived in the evacuation zones and did not register with the Red Cross or city officials, and authorities could not contact them. President Obama talked to Colorado Mayor John Hickenlooper and Mayor Bach, and was scheduled to visit Colorado Springs on Friday to determine the extent of the devastation.