“It’s kind of frustrating that you don’t really know what the heck is going on,” he said.
To the left, about a half-mile away from his home, he could see the remains of the Mountain Shadows subdivision, the epicenter of the fires that ravaged this quiet community about 60 miles south of Denver, the home of the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters.
On Tuesday, the Waldo Canyon fire roared down the mountain and consumed 347 houses. The most destructive wildfire in the state’s history blazed across 26 miles and has forced more than 30,000 people from their homes as of Friday afternoon. Officials found human remains in one home, and a second person was found dead in the house. The number of people still missing stands at fewer than 10, officials said. They considered the fire 15 percent contained. Police also charged a person with impersonating a firefighter, the first arrest made in relation to the wildfires.
President Obama declared the fire a “major disaster,” promised federal relief and toured the damage Friday. He visited the affected residential areas, thanked firefighters at a firehouse and praised volunteers at a YMCA. He also said that local officials had made “unprecedented” arrangements with military resources to fight the fires.
“Whether it’s fires in Colorado or flooding in the northern parts of Florida, when natural disasters like this hit, America comes together,” Obama said. “We all recognize that there but for the grace of God go I. We’ve got to make sure that we have each other’s backs.”
Hundreds sought out Red Cross shelters, visited mobile insurance trucks and frantically booked hotel rooms. Helicopters whirred through the valleys, and planes soared over the peaks, dumping bright-red flame retardant on the woods. The smell of smoke permeated the air. High winds threatened to spread embers.
Dread was mixed with signs of normalcy. Restaurants and stores remained open, the smoking hills visible out the windows. Garbage trucks trundled along streets as scheduled. In coffee shops, residents shared experiences and whispered rumors.
Most residents of the affected area of Colorado Springs split into two groups: those whose homes were destroyed and those who wondered if theirs was safe. The Croslins still remained in the latter group.
David Croslin, 55, and his family had moved into the home of a friend who was out of town. It was across the valley from their home in the Hunters Point subdivision, where they have lived for 16 years with eight children, five of them — ages 8 to 17 — still at home.