Racing fans, prepare yourself to wait for this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. Hot, dry weather conditions and stronger than normal winds have turned summer blazes in Colorado’s Front Range into deadly wildfires that have forced thousands of people from their homes. Fire crews in Ft. Collins, Boulder and Colorado Springs battle around the clock to save acreage, homes and ultimately lives. The Waldo Canyon wildfire near Colorado Springs is expected to push Pikes Peak past its scheduled July 8 date.
Pikes Peak race threatened
Reports from local media indicate that the Waldo Canyon fire has already destroyed over 2,000 acres in and around the city of Colorado Springs. That fire is not currently contained. Damaged roads and burnt out address markers are common in the area, and the layer of heavy smoke has made it nearly impossible to obtain an accurate count of how many homes have been consumed by fire. As winds of up to 65 mph fan the flames, the evacuation of at least 32,000 people may just be the beginning.
Estimates involving the number of destroyed homes range from at least 100 to 300 or more, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. Firefighting officials believe that the blaze near Pikes Peak Hill – which at this writing has been burning for four days – will last for at least a month as winds continue to feed it and push it toward prairie land to the east.
Pikes Peak CEO ‘cautiously optimistic’
Tom Osborne, president and CEO of Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, said that the closure of Highway 24 doesn’t bode well for the race to occur as scheduled.
“We are cautiously optimistic concerning the running of the 90th Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on July 8 after an informative and thorough meeting this morning with Mayor Steve Bach and officials from the City of Colorado Springs. We are in consistent touch with these officials, and monitoring the constantly-developing situation related to the wildfires,” he said via a written statement.
“We are grateful for the support of the City and for the efforts of the agencies involved in protecting our community from the fire. Our constant thoughts are with the hundreds of men and women who are in the air and on the ground giving us their best, and with our residents and neighbors. In the meantime, our systems for the staging of the race and the ancillary events connected to it are fully operative.”
Thunderstorms and high winds make matters worse
Weather forecasters predict thunderstorms over the areas where the Colorado wildfires are burning. Such thunderstorms in the region aren’t known for having much rain, but winds will definitely make firefighters’ jobs more difficult. Local authorities believe that the winds could easily cause the Waldo Canyon fire to move closer to Pikes Peak. If the race were to go on as scheduled, Osborne noted that extra emergency crews would need to be available, but those crews are needed to battle the wildfires.
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