Last week, aerial views of Rampart Reservoir, a critical water-storage facility for Colorado Springs, Colorado, showed spot fires billowing tentacles of smoke over the lake’s forested shores.
"It smelled like a big smelly cigar," said Andy Funchess, a water systems field operations manager for the Colorado Springs water utility. Funchess spends his workdays monitoring and maintaining the city’s 25 reservoirs and hundreds of miles of pipeline and canals.
As strong winds helped the Waldo Canyon Fire puncture black holes into the evergreen landscape around the reservoir, Funchess gave up on trying to predict the fire’s erratic behavior and was evacuated.
The Waldo Canyon Fire, which started 11 days ago and has swept over nearly 18,000 acres, is now 70 percent contained. It hasn't consumed the reservoir, but could have long-lasting effects on water quality—and even quantity.