Black Forest Fire Voluntary Evacuation Zone Established [UPDATED]
10:25AM: I'm feeling confident enough now to make this post non-sticky, but I'll continue to update as needed.
9:19AM: Division A covers the fire's closest approach to Highway 83, just east of yesterday's expanded mandatory evacuation zone. That's where today's big effort will concentrate. "Everywhere it's grass, we're winning," up in the north. There are a couple hot spots on the eastern edge near Meridian, but the line has held. They don't sound worried at all. There's still heat in the Shoup area and the now-famous School of the Wood, but that's also the place yesterday they were willing to call contained.
Cooler air and -- for now -- lighter winds. "Aviation assets are still strong," with no losses. The mood is cautious-but-confident.
I can't even begin to tell you what a difference a year has made in Colorado's ability to respond to these fires.
9:08AM: "In general I am feeling more confident today." That's Sheriff Marketa, who says they gained some "tremendous ground" yesterday. More to come.
7:06AM: Number of evacuees now up to 41,000. That includes 3,000 from inside the city limits of Colorado Springs. The most encouraging sign I've seen so far is that the sheriff's office is at least considering allowing some evacuees back into their homes.
FRIDAY, 6:49AM: Woke up twenty minutes ago and the first thing I did was check the evacuation zones and burn area maps. No additional evacuations overnight, which is good. But the winds were strong and steady all night, so it looks like we have a lot more fires within a slightly enlarged burn area.
The real danger looks to be the same as yesterday, to the south of Shoup Road and to the east past Meridian. I'm to the north and west, but if we didn't have to evacuate yesterday -- and I was deeply convinced we would -- then there's a good chance we won't have to today either.
Yesterday the Air Force and National Guard showed up like the Eighth Air Force over Germany in 1943. There were private planes and copters involved, too. Combined with over 700 firemen, the fought the breakout in the east-west running Shoup-Hodgen corridor damn near to standstill. Because if the fire were going to burn its way into the heart of Colorado Springs, that's where it was going to happen. Sheriff Marketa described the effort as something close to a victory. But today there are many new fires south of Shoup, so last night must have been tough. The weather forecast for today is cooler, cloudier, and most importantly, less windy.
The next press conference is scheduled for 9AM.