This is my neighborhood.
By BOBBI SANKEY The Gazette
A wildland fire that raged along Fountain Valley Monday afternoon burned 1,800 acres in six hours — a harsh reminder that conditions remain dangerously dry and wildfire risk is severe.
Some area businesses and homes were evacuated as firefighters battled the blaze fueled by parched land and wind gusts up to 46 mph. Crews from seven area fire departments were called to assist.
No homes or businesses were damaged and the fire was 100 percent contained by about 8 p.m. Monday, though some hot spots remained, according to Fountain Police Deputy Chief Mark Barnett.
El Paso County Wildland Fire Crew spokeswoman Nancy Kittridge
said most firefighters were able to leave about 8 p.m. but a small crew would monitor the remaining hot spots overnight. Crews contained the fire south of Academy Boulevard.
The fire, reported shortly after 2 p.m., burned land owned by El Paso County, the city of Colorado Springs, the city of Fountain and private owners, according to Kittridge.
Initially, there were two fires but they quickly burned together.
Fountain police evacuated about 100 people from a trailer park and apartment buildings in the 5700 and 6400 blocks of Southmoor Drive around 4:30 p.m.
Many residents watched anxiously amid a thick haze of smoke as flames swept the open field across the railroad tracks from their backyards.
“We’ve been watering down our whole house — everything,” said 16-year-old Michelle Magariver. She purchased dust masks and handed them out to those watching smoke rise near the railroad tracks.
Bobbi Jo Allen, who lives by Venetucci Elementary School, watched as the wind gusted and smoke billowed and remembered the house fire she experienced as a teenager.
“You lose everything — if not to the fire, then to the water and the damage,” she said. Her son and daughter-in-law and their children, who live near her, already were packed and ready to evacuate, she said.
About 15 businesses in the Fountain Valley Shops strip mall also were evacuated.
The fire came treacherously close to the backyard fences of homes in Stratmoor Valley, west of U.S. Highway 85/87.
Betty Coleman woke from a nap when her husband hollered there was a fire headed for their home on Kensington Drive in Stratmoor Valley.
She ran outside and aimed the garden hose toward a field she described as “ dry weed patch” behind their home. Flames crept within about 10 feet of their fence, she said.
“I got wide awake,” she said. “I was spraying as it came, then the wind shifted. It was really bad. I had to come in and take a shower afterwards because my face was black. I’ve never been that close to a fire. It was scary.”
The blaze blackened one of her neighbor’s fence, she said.
Highway 85/87 was closed from Fontaine Boulevard to Academy Boulevard for several hours but was reopened by 8 p.m., according to Kittridge.
Firefighters from the Fountain, Security, Fort Carson, Stratmoor and Hanover Fire Departments were called to assist with the fire, along with El Paso County and Colorado Springs Utilities Wildland Fire Crews, El Paso County Sheriff’s Office deputies, the Colorado State Patrol and the Fountain Police Department.
Four firefighters were treated for minor injuries, according to Kittridge.
The fire’s cause has not been determined.