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Colorado Fights Wildfires; Launches Website to Provide Travel InfoJune 28, 2012 By: Jena Tesse Fox
Calmer winds and lower temperatures Thursday could help firefighters battle a blaze that has devoured more than 18,000 acres and chased 36,000 people from their homes in Colorado Springs, CNN is reporting.
But the Waldo Canyon Fire is only 5 percent contained, and it could be mid-July before it is fully under control, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Incident commander Rich Harvey said he expected a much larger percentage of the fire contained by the end of Thursday.
The Waldo Canyon Fire captured attention because of its proximity to landmarks like Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy, and also to Colorado Springs, a city of about 400,000, the state's second largest.
Al White, director of the Colorado Tourism Office, told Travel Agent that while the fires were certainly devastating, most of the state was not impacted. "It’s a tragedy for the areas that have been impacted, but that’s a small section of the state," he said. The fires are covering about 100,000 acres, he said, but Colorado covers about 23 million acres. "The message that Colorado is ablaze is just wrong," he said. The state's two main airports, Denver International Airport and Colorado Springs Airport, have not experienced any flight cancellations or issues impacting visibility or airport operations, and few lodging properties and campgrounds have been impacted.
The Colorado Tourism Office has announced an online travel resource for tourism-related fire updates at www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-wildfire-updates-travelers. The webpage will provide regular updates on tourism-related attractions and destinations in close proximity to the fires. The Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs was badly burned, and several upcoming events and activities have been canceled or postponed. "The more information we can offer, the better off [travelers] will be," White said.
At the Broadmoor, a resort near Colorado Springs, Lindsey Hafemeister said that the hotel was, for the most part, operating as per usual. "We're fortunate to be a part of Colorado Springs that is unaffected," she said. "We're 12 miles away from the Waldo Canyon fire, and it's not moving in our direction." Activities at the resort are fully operational, she added, but noted that some have been postponed due to air quality concerns, such as hiking and biking tours. The hotel has seen some cancelations and postponements, but not a devastating amount. Access to the resort remains unaffected, and the hotel has even opened up rooms to displaced employees who have had to leave their homes due to the fires. The resort is also providing time-stamped photos to anyone concerned about the situation—the below was taken on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Marriott has evacuated three properties in the state: the Fairfield Inn Colorado Springs Air Force Academy, the TownePlace Suites Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Marriott. All three hotels are franchise properties. Marriott operates a total of 14 hotels across six brands in the Colorado Springs area.
"We're hoping that the people who were planning to visit will still come," White said. "There's no fire in Vail, Aspen, Durango or Mesa Verde…99 percent of the state is not on fire or even threatened."
In addition to www.colorado.com/articles/colorado-wildfire-updates-travelers, up-to-date information on location and status of the fires can also be obtained via the Colorado Division of Emergency Management at www.coemergency.com or on Twitter at @COEmergency. Updates on Colorado wildfires are also available at www.inciweb.org/state/6. For ways to help those affected by the wildfires in Colorado, visit www.HelpColoradoNow.org.
A fiery sunset near Telluride; photo courtesy of Matt Inden/Miles