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The Next Big One: Cheyenne Mountain is ready to burn

Preparing for Wildfires

VIDEO The Next Big One Cheyenne Mountain

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -  

We continue to track the threat of wildfires but one mountain just west of Colorado Springs has firefighters concerned it could go up at any time. Calling Cheyenne Mountain a ticking time bomb.

Hundreds of homes crowded together at the base of Cheyenne Mountain are nestled around trees and brush. A beautiful place to live, but also the most dangerous place to be if a wildfire were to break out. Those who live on the mountain have seen dozens of fires happen down below. Laura and Chuck Zulanas say they have seen the Carson Midway Fire, 117 fire and more happen from their backyard. Laura Zulanas says, "when you are on the mountain, you can see it and it really is a constant reminder how careful you need to be."

They also saw the Waldo Canyon fire that burned 346 homes and killed two people. It happened just north of Cheyenne but Chuck says they were still affected, "ash was even coming out towards us."

Right down the road, Steve Calendine says after seeing all these fires, he takes fire mitigation very seriously. Cutting down dozens of branches and cleaning up leaves in his backyard. It wasn't always that way for him. Calendine admits when he first moved to Cheyenne, he didn't think a fire could happen near them. Now, after seeing all the blazes over the years, he prays it never happens. "We just hope we never have one come up this way," Calendine says, "we know the odds are against us because it has been a long time."

Calendine's right, it has been nearly 70 years since a major fire broke out on Cheyenne Mountain. Broadmoor Fire Chief Noel Perran says these resident's worth fear could become reality,  "If history is any evidence of it, we have the potential for catastrophic wildfires."
 

The Broad moor Fire Department is the first line of defense to protect the mountain. It consists of two-man teams that cover 1100 homes. Using special equipment to fight fires that we never hear about like car fires, unattended campfires, lightning strikes and more. Perran says those small fires can turn deadly as we have seen in the past.

What makes Cheyenne Mountain particularly dangerous is the decades it has gone without a fire. The last devastating blaze happened on January 17th, 1950. It burned 50 square miles on Cheyenne, killing nine people and destroying close to a hundred homes. In the decades that have passed, that dry fast burning undergrowth has grown to the point where any spark could start a massive wildfire. If that were to happen, Perran says it would take everything El Paso County fire departments have to control it.

That's why they say fire mitigation is so important for residents in the area. Especially since these fire officials say, it's not if a fire breaks out, it's when.


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