Newman Colorado campus threatened in devastating fires


The fires that devastated homes in and around Colorado Springs, Colo., this summer caused much heartache and displacement for residents. Those affected included the Newman University community in the area, when fires crept up to the Newman Colorado Springs campus doorstep.

On June 26, the fires that had raged just outside the city rushed over the final mountain ridge between Waldo Canyon and the building in Colorado Springs that houses the Newman Master of Social Work Distance Education program. The fire edged into the northwest part of town and burned 346 homes to the ground in minutes, fueled by winds exceeding 65 m.p.h.

Fortunately, none of the 65 Newman students, faculty, or staff were physically harmed by the fires, although Assistant Professor of Social Work Terrie Cox-Pauly, LCSW and her family were forced to evacuate their home for a full week.

Still, the Newman community in Colorado Springs was willing and ready to take care of one another during the emergency, according to John Moragues, MSSW, assistant professor and coordinator of the Colorado Springs Distance Education MSW program.

“We sent out an e-mail request twice to all students and faculty, asking if they needed evacuation assistance, or if they could offer space or other evacuation assistance,” Moragues said. “I received at least a dozen offers of assistance, from both students and faculty, and both for people and for pets, if needed. However, I did not receive any requests for assistance.”

Moragues also personally reached out to several students and alumni whose homes were in an evacuated area and therefore at risk. In each case the families had successfully evacuated, and none lost their homes.

Moragues said the Newman school building, which is located approximately four miles east of a mandatory evacuation zone, was filled with smoke on the evening of June 26. After consulting with Newman officials in Wichita, he cancelled classes for the remainder of that week.

The massive fire, which occurred in extreme hot and dry conditions in the area, burned more than 18,000 acres of forest and urban territory (29 square miles), and caused in excess of $350 million in damages. Two people died in the fire and more than 32,000 were forced to evacuate.

The fire was declared fully contained on July 10, but was not completely extinguished until sometime later. More than 1,200 firefighters from 34 states took part in the effort to contain fires in Colorado Springs and throughout the state.