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Disturbing e-mails could spell more trouble for Penn State officials

photo's by Ray Tharaldson all rights reserved 2012

By Susan Candiotti, CNN
(CNN) -- With convicted serial child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky behind bars, new questions are surfacing about what Penn State officials knew about a 2001 incident involving the former assistant football coach's encounter with a boy in the shower -- and whether they covered up the incident.

After the 2001 incident, Sandusky sexually abused other boys over the course of years until his arrest.
CNN does not have the purported e-mails. However, the alleged contents were made available to CNN.
The messages indicate former Penn State President Graham Spanier and two other former university officials knew they had a problem with Sandusky after a 2001 shower incident, but apparently first decided to handle it using a "humane" approach before contacting outside authorities whose job it is to investigate suspected abuse.

"This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,' wrote Gary Schultz, then vice president at the university.

Records show no authorities were ever contacted and Sandusky was eventually charged with having sexual contact with four more boys after the 2001 incident. On June 22, Sandusky was convicted of abusing 10 boys over 15 years.

In an exchange of messages from February 26-28, 2001, Spanier allegedly acknowledges Penn State could be "vulnerable" for not reporting the incident, according to two sources with knowledge of the case.
"The only downside for us is if the message (to Sandusky) isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier purportedly writes.

The alleged e-mails among Spanier, Schultz, 62, and former Athletic Director Tim Curley, 57, never mention Sandusky by name, instead referring to him as "the subject" and "the person." Children that Sandusky brought on campus --some of whom might have been victims -- are referred to as "guests."
The exchanges began 16 days after graduate assistant Mike McQueary first told Coach Joe Paterno on February 9, 2001, that McQueary believed he saw Sandusky make sexual contact with a boy in a locker room shower.

Since the scandal broke, Spanier, Schultz and Curley have publicly maintained McQueary reported only inappropriate conduct -- horsing around. The purported e-mails indicate the men could be at additional risk for not disclosing the matter to authorities. Schultz and Curley are currently charged with perjury and failing to report suspected child abuse. They have pleaded not guilty.

Paterno testified before a grand jury that McQueary was "very upset" and said he saw Sandusky "doing something with a youngster. It was a sexual nature," according to a transcript. Paterno testified he told his boss, Curley. Curley and Schultz contacted McQueary about a week and half later about the incident.
In an alleged e-mail dated February 26, 2001, Schultz writes to Curley that he assumes Curley's "got the ball" about a three-part plan to "talk with the subject asap regarding the future appropriate use of the University facility," ... "contacting the chair of the charitable organization" and "contacting the Department of Welfare," according to a source with knowledge of the case.

Schultz refers to Sandusky as the "subject" and Sandusky's Second Mile charity as the "charitable organization," according to a source with knowledge of the e-mails.

Pennsylvania law requires suspected child abuse be reported to outside authorities, including the state's child welfare agencies.

But then, something changes.
The next evening, February 27, Curley allegedly writes to Spanier. Schultz, who's out of the office for two weeks, is copied.

Curley refers to a meeting scheduled that day with Spanier and indicates they apparently discussed the Sandusky incident two days earlier.

Curley indicates he no longer wants to contact child welfare authorities just yet. He refers to a conversation the day before with Paterno. It's not known what Paterno may have said to Curley.

Curley writes: "After giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe yesterday, I am uncomfortable with what we agreed were the next steps."

The athletic director apparently preferred to keep the situation an internal affair and talk things over with Sandusky instead of notifying the state's child welfare agency to investigate Sandusky's suspicious activity.
"I am having trouble with going to everyone, but the person involved," Curley allegedly continues.

Curley writes he'd be "more comfortable" meeting with Sandusky himself and telling him they know about the 2001 incident and -- according to a source with knowledge of the case -- refers to another shower incident with a boy in 1998 that was investigated by police, but never resulted in charges against Sandusky.

Curley writes to Penn State's president Spanier that he wants to meet with Sandusky, tell him there's "a problem," and that "we want to assist the individual to get professional help."

In the same purported e-mail provided to CNN, Curley goes on to suggest that if Sandusky "is cooperative," Penn State "would work with him" to tell Second Mile. If not, Curley states, the university will inform both Second Mile and outside authorities.

Curley adds that he intends to inform Sandusky that his "guests" won't be allowed to use Penn State facilities anymore.

"What do you think of this approach?" Curley allegedly wrote to Spanier.
About two hours later, Spanier responded to Curley in another e-mail and copied Schultz. Spanier allegedly called the plan "acceptable", but worries whether it's the right thing to do, according to two sources.

"The only downside for us is if the message (to Sandusky) isn't 'heard' and acted upon, and we then become vulnerable for not having reported it," Spanier purportedly wrote.

"But that can be assessed down the down the road. The approach you outline is humane and a reasonable way to proceed," he adds.

The next afternoon, Schultz allegedly responded to the Penn State president and its athletic director. Schultz signs off on handling the matter without telling anyone on the outside, at least for now.

"This is a more humane and upfront way to handle this,' Schultz purportedly wrote. But he made clear Penn State should inform Sandusky's charity Second Mile "with or without (Sandusky's) cooperation."
As for telling child welfare authorities, he added, "we can play it by ear."

No one ever reported the 2001 shower incident. A decade later, a 2011 grand jury found no Pennsylvania law enforcement or child welfare agency was ever told.
"It was not only not humane to give Sandusky a pass, but inhumane towards young men who fell prey to him," said attorney Tom Kline, who represents Victim 5. About six months after the February 2001 incident witnessed by McQueary, Victim 5 was molested. Last week, Sandusky was convicted of having unlawful sexual contact with Victim 5, among 44 other counts involving nine other boys.

Schultz and Curley already are charged with perjury fofr allegedly lying to a grand jury and failure to reported suspected child abuse.

Sources say based on the e-mails and other documents, they could face additional charges. Spanier, sources say, could also be charged, law enforcement sources and legal experts say.

As part of an ongoing grand jury investigation, state prosecutors are pouring over the e-mails turned over by Penn State as part of its own investigation, led by former FBI Director Louis Freeh.

According to court papers, the government is also examining a Sandusky file left behind by Schultz. In a statement, Schultz's attorney Tom Farrell says Schultz who retired in 2009, did not keep any "secret" files.

Prosecutors say the file was created, maintained, and possessed by Schultz and assert documents in the file are "inconsistent" with statements made by Schultz and Curley to a grand jury.

One inconsistency may involve Schultz's grand jury testimony stating the state's child welfare agency was notified about the 2001 shower incident. "My recollection would be ... (in 2002) ... that they were asked to look into this allegation," Schultz testified.

He also testified any notes he "probably" took about the 2002 incident may have been destroyed when he retired in 2009.

Curley's grand jury testimony also appears inconsistent with the e-mails. In the messages, he refers to "a first situation" in 1998, yet he told a grand jury he wasn't aware of any other allegations of alleged sexual conduct involving Sandusky.

A prosecutor asked Curley: "Specifically, a 1998 report, did you know anything about that in 2002?" Curley responded: "No, ma'am."

Schultz and Curley, through their lawyers, consistently maintain McQueary didn't tell them about a sexual assault in 2001, and instead said McQueary described "inappropriate conduct" or horsing around.

McQueary has repeatedly testified he told Penn State officials he saw a boy with his hands up against a wall with Sandusky behind him and heard slapping, rhythmic sounds. He added that someone wouldn't have to be "a rocket scientist" to figure out what was going on.

A jury acquitted Sandusky of rape involving the 2001 incident, and instead found Sandusky guilty of several other counts involved in that shower incident including unlawful sexual contact.

Spanier's lawyer did not respond to calls from CNN seeking comment for this story.

According to Penn State's board of trustees, Spanier was fired last year because "he failed to meet his leadership responsibilities."

Shortly after his dismissal, Spanier issued a statement that said, in part, "I was stunned and outraged to learn that any predatory act might have occurred in a university facility or by someone associated with the university. ... I would never hesitate to report a crime if I had any suspicion that one had been committed."

In a statement to CNN, lawyers for Schultz and Curley said both men were doing the best they could about a report of "inappropriate conduct" by a man with a stellar reputation.

"As Governor Tom Corbett stated, 'If we were going to do this case, we had to have the best possible case to go against somebody like Mr. Sandusky who was ... loved by everybody. Carried out of the football stadium on the shoulders of his football team. How can anybody say there must be something wrong with him?'" the lawyers' statement read, citing Corbett's remarks in a June 25 article by The Patriot News.

"For Curley, Schultz, Spanier and Paterno, the responsible and 'humane' thing to do was, like Governor Corbett (said), to carefully and responsibly assess the best way to handle vague, but troubling allegations. Faced with tough situations, good people try to do their best to make the right decisions."
A spokesman for Paterno's family, who has not seen any e-mails, told CNN Paterno didn't communicate by e-mail and defended the coach.

"Everyone should want the truth ... and Joe always told the truth," Dan McGinn told CNN. "He did the right thing. He told his boss about McQueary."

One thing is clear. There's no evidence Penn State did anything to find the boy involved in the 2001 incident.

The night Sandusky was led away in handcuffs, Penn State issued a statement calling for healing. So did the family of Joe Paterno.

Healing might take time. Everyone is waiting for the results of Freeh's investigation, anticipated by this fall. It's unclear when state investigators will finish their work. The Justice Department is also conducting a probe, as is the U.S. Department of Education and the NCAA.

And Penn State is already reaching out to attorneys representing Sandusky's victims.
Their lawsuits have yet to be filed.

Kline, Victim 5's attorney, said he wants to see the results of Penn State's investigation.
"Everything we saw in this trial could have been stopped by Penn State," Kline told CNN.
"This is an American tragedy of monumental proportions."

Saturday's lineup for 'Your Voice with Deb and Tam' on KRKS.com

Dear Friends, 

It has been quite a week in the news, which is why we are so excited to have some special guests on our show tomorrow, Saturday June 30th, to give us some powerful insight!

We will be broadcasting live from the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, and we invite you to join us for our interview with Governor Jan Brewer to discuss the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona's immigration law. Also, we will have Dr. Jill Vecchio, National Director of Docs 4 Patient Care, to discuss the ruling on the healthcare legislation. 

Most importantly we will talk about how these developments affect our everyday lives and what we can do about it. Together we can make a difference! 

You can catch the show every Saturday from 8 am to 10 am MT (that's 7 am to 9 am PT) on KRKS 94.7 FM in Denver or streaming live on  AmericanWomenMedia.com and KRKS.com.

We hope you tune in and join us.  It's called "Your Voice with Deb and Tam" because it's all about you. We look forward to elevating the dialogue in this country together!
  
Blessings,
    
Deborah Flora and Tamara Colbert



Sgt. Jason Hale directs National Guard film


ROCKFORD —
Sgt. Jason Hale, a sniper, will tell the journey of Charlie Troop, attached to the 1-126th Calvary of the Michigan National Guard. The documentary is entitled “Citizen Soldiers: The Real Life Stories of the Boys of Charlie Troop.” It is expected to be released in late 2013.

Hale moved to the Detroit suburbs in 2004 to work as a fundraiser for charitable giving. He enlisted in the National Guard in 2006 for a six-year commitment.

Hale asked to direct the documentary after he was interviewed and became part of the story of the documentary, “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good.” That documentary featured the travels of Academy Award-nominated actor Gary Sinise as he and his band traveled around the world entertaining troops.

“During several of the screenings we had for ‘Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good,’ including the Capitol Building and across the U.S., Jason would be part of our question and answers sessions following the screening,” said Jonathan Flora, director and producer of the “Lt. Dan Band” film. He made his comments in an email interview.

Hale explained to Flora differences been a National Guard unit preparing to deploy as compared with Army soldiers. He asked Flora if that might be a good documentary and told him he’d like to direct such a film. Flora liked the idea and asked him to direct. Flora’s company, Lamplight Entertainment of Northridge, Calif., is backing the National Guard documentary.

“Jason is a storyteller who gets it, lives it and knows how to express it,” Flora said.

“Too often, there is no distinction in the minds of the general public as to the differences,” Flora said. “Or they may feel the Guard stays here at home and assists primarily during national disasters, etc.

But since 9/11, more than 200,000 Guard soldiers have been mobilized for active duty overseas. At one point in 2005, half the combat brigades in Iraq were Army Guard units, Flora said.

Flora said individuals in the regular Army are “pretty much military 24-7.” On the other hand, a Guard member is military one weekend a month and two weeks every summer. “If a person is single and a homeowner, who takes care of their home while they are deployed? If a small business owner, who runs the shop? And like the regular Army, who takes care of their families, and how will their wives handle being a single parent for such a long period of time.”

Many National Guard members serve extended duty for a year to 18 months at a time. Hale left for Afghanistan in December last year. “It is normal today to say (Guard) soldiers with a six-year commitment will see at least two war-type deployments,” Hale said in an email interview.

In his sniper job, Hale goes ahead of troops and searches out the enemy.

Because of his work with Sinise and Flora in Iraq on the “Lt. Dan Band” movie and his desire to document the Afghanistan deployment, Hale has worked with the military to get the OK to photograph and interview soldiers and their families before, during and after the soldiers’ return.

“I always have my camera at the ready and notebook to write down what I am seeing live, on the spot,” he said. “But my job is to perform as a senior sniper, and all else is secondary.”

Hale spent several hundred hours filming Charlie Troop members before they left for Afghanistan. Spouses, girlfriends, parents, siblings, friends were interviewed. He filmed weddings and talked with soldiers about the babies that would be born while they were away.

He has filmed Afghanistan soldiers, citizens and children. And he appreciates the supplies, clothes, candy, gifts and musical recorders groups and families back home have sent.

When Hale returns, he will interview again all those he’d talked to before the soldiers left for Afghanistan.

“For some, it will be hard, because for those that have been injured and even lost limbs, their lives and their families’ lives will have been changed forever.

“It will be time to readjust back to civilian life, and I will try to document how that is doing.”

Georgette Braun is a GO columnist for the Rockford Register Star. Contact her at gbraun@rrstar.com or 815-987-1331.


"I had the honor of meeting Jason during the screening o Jonathan Flora's award winning film "Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good" at the Heartland Film Festival. I'm looking forward to someday screening Jason's film as well!"
Ray Tharaldson

Profile: Jason Hale
Born: 1977 in Arlington Heights
High school: Christian Life High School, Rockford, 1995

Career: After high school, received degree from World Harvest Bible College in Columbus, Ohio, and traveled with a friend doing evangelism work with youth; returned to Rockford and was a window washer, owned his own business and in fall of 2004 moved to Detroit area to work as a fundraiser for charitable giving.

Military career: Joined the Army National Guard in 2006. Worked as a gunner on a Humvee and with Iraqi government officials to improve relations in Iraq in summer of 2007. His unit’s shift were 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with special missions added on. “We provided supplies and many items for the children and schools,” Hale said. “I knew there was a different story that was not reaching back to America, and I yearned in my heart to tell the good that was being done.” Hale returned to the U.S. in late summer 2008 and continued with his job in planned giving in eastern Michigan and doing military training weekends and annual summer training with the Guard. He left for Afghanistan with his Guard unit in December last year and was promoted from corporal to sergeant.

Parents: Father, Scott Hale, who grew up in Michigan and moved to Chicago in 1969 and then to Rockford in 1979. He worked as an insurance sales agent and manager for 29 years for Liberty Mutual Insurance; stepmother, Carol, a Rockford elementary school music teacher. Mother Barbara Hale Ruggerio, and stepfather, Rich Ruggerio, live in Michigan. Scott Hale served in the Army. His home on North Mulford Road near Spring Creek Road has a large flag, Statue of Liberty replica and a banner stating “God Bless America.”

Colorado wildfire: Aerial photo shows about 300 homes destroyed in Waldo Canyon Fire

Tens of thousands of people remained homeless in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, fixated on the smoky hills as the weather helped slow a Waldo Canyon fire that left a stunning path of destruction in its wake. An aerial photograph of the Mountain Shadows neighborhood that was taken Wednesday showed approximately 300 homes, all of them inside the Colorado Springs city limits, reduced to charred rubble. Colorado Springs authorities would not confirm exact numbers, saying they were still making assessments and devising a way to convey the information to affected homeowners.
One of the destroyed homes belonged to Ted Stefani and his wife, Kate. He learned its fate when he picked up The Denver Post on Wednesday. There, in the lower left.
"It's a good and bad thing," he said. "It's bad, because our house is gone.
"But at least we know."

The blaze, one of nine major wildfires burning in Colorado, continued to attract national attention Wednesday. The White House announced that President Barack Obama would visit the area Friday, when he is expected to tour the damaged neighborhoods and thank firefighters.

The blaze's cause was not known Wednesday, and the FBI joined the investigation, which was in its earliest stages.

The four-day-old fire that had grown to 18,500 acres smoldered throughout Wednesday, but cloud cover and shade from the smoke kept ground temperatures cooler than on previous days.
Firefighters had a containment line around about 5 percent of the burned area.

Late-afternoon winds fed by a nearby thunderstorm sent firefighters running for safety in the hillside neighborhoods they were protecting. But those gusts, which reached at least 20 mph, did not blow the fire into anything like the catastrophic event that terrorized the city Tuesday.

"There was smoldering going on up and down that ridge,"said Charlie Drennan, division chief of operations for the Denver Fire Department, one of 13 fire departments from around the region that were helping out on the fire.

Drennan's engine crew worked all night and day protecting homes in the Peregrine subdivision — hoses plugged into fire hydrants, snuffing out flare-ups and watching the wind.

Anxious homeowners who had been ushered out of their homes the day before sat in their cars in a parking lot east of Interstate 25 with a view of their neighborhood, watching as smoke billowed and trees caught fire around it and listening to emergency-radio traffic on a scanner.

"I'm just hoping nobody dies," said Seth Grotelueschen, listening as a Denver engine company protecting his home was ordered to leave in the face of a wall of flames.

About 32,000 people remained out of their homes Wednesday, and new evacuations were ordered in Teller County. Several neighborhoods in El Paso County were placed on pre-evacuation orders as fire managers closely watched the forecast.

Sandra Fales wiped away tears Wednesday morning as she pulled clothes for her three children from the trunk of her car. She and her children spent the night at the Red Cross shelter at the Southeast YMCA .

After watching the fire for hours, Fales was ordered to evacuate around 11 p.m. Tuesday.
"I watched it roll down the hill as it took out everything," Fales said. "The flames just took it all out."
In a neighborhood north of the Air Force Academy, families raced to pack up their cars afternoon after hearing that they should be prepared to flee.

The fire was still about 5 miles away, but the wind was blowing north.
"I'm just taking anything that is irreplaceable, photos, baby books," said Julie Gwisdalla as she loaded her SUV. "It's pretty scary to think your home is going to burn up."

For Stefani, an Army surgeon who returned from Afghanistan a month ago, the loss of his home came after a horrific time in which he fled the flames.

He was watching a televised news conference Tuesday about the fire when he noticed leaves rustling in the wind. He walked up the street to get a view of the mountain behind his home and saw flames a
mile away and moving fast.

With his wife and son in Denver, he rushed back to get their dog and pack some essential items: the title to their car, computer hard drives, birth certificates, some of his items from Iraq and Afghanistan, a baby blanket and clothes.

Embers and ash began falling and thick smoke covered the driveway. While he packed, his wife called.

"I can't talk," he said. "I need to load the car." His brief and rushed tone worried her.
"I don't scare easily," he said. "My wife knows that. I was in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I saw a lot of trauma there. But I sounded rattled."

On Tuesday night, the enormity of what had happened to him and his wife hit hard. They had to go and buy copies of the two books they read to their son each night, "Goodnight Moon" and "Pat the Bunny."

And they had to replace his favorite teddy bear that makes a noise when it's squeezed.
When their son squeezed the bear's belly and they heard that familiar sound, "that was pretty emotional. We both cried."

He said he feels lucky because he has insurance and an Army community that cares about him and his family. They are now looking for a new place to live and hope to lease something within a week.
"Then, it's starting over from scratch."

Jeremy P. Meyer: 303-954-1367 or jpmeyer@denverpost.com
Denver Post staff writers Kurtis Lee, Tom McGhee, Jordan Steffen and Erin Udell contributed to this report.
Cash is king in aid of Waldo Canyon Fire victims
People are eager to help the thousands of people affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire burning in Colorado Springs. Please do not bring donations to shelters or command posts unless an official request is logged at inciweb.org. Here are some places seeking volunteers and financial assistance. More resources for evacuees are available at denverpost.com:
• El Paso County Sheriff's Office: Large-animal shelter at Norris-Penrose Equestrian Center needs volunteers: 719-520-7773.
• Pikes Peak Red Cross donations can be made at pparc.org.
• Goodwill donations can be made at discovermygoodwill.org .
• The Red Cross in Colorado Springs is at 719-632-3563. Those wanting to donate money to the Red Cross can go do so at redcross.org.
• Colorado Springs World Arena will serve as a drop-off point for donations of food (including canned tuna, peanut butter, protein bars and boxed meals) and personal-care items (including shaving cream, razors, deodorant and shampoo): 719-477-2100
• Waldo Canyon fire evacuees are encouraged to register as "safe and well" with the Red Cross program at safeandwell.org. Additionally, people worried about their loved ones can search for their names — and those of anyone evacuated from a Colorado wildfire zone — at the site.

Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte: Who's got next?

By Roxanna Scott, USA TODAY
All eyes will be on Michael Phelps tonight – minus his main rival at the U.S. Olympic swimming trials.

Ryan Lochte won't be competing in any finals tonight in Omaha. Phelps has the 200-meter butterfly, scheduled to go off at 8:12 p.m. ET.

To recap: Lochte and Phelps are tied at one victory each in head-to-head races in finals. In a game of "cat and mouse," Phelps nipped his rival in the 200 freestyle on Wednesday night after Lochte won their opening duel in the 400 individual medley on Day 1.

As for today, Lochte is entered in the 100 freestyle prelims this morning. He's in a heat that include 36-year-old Jason Lezak. Also swimming in the 100: Anthony Ervin, who's had an interesting journey back to the Olympic trials, Cullen Jones, Matt Grevers and Nathan Adrian. The semifinals will be held tonight.

Phelps scratched the 100 free because his spot in the 4x100 relay is secure.

Later tonight, 17-year-old Missy Franklin, the kid Dara Torres loves to watch, swims in the 200 free.

If you're trying to keep track: Phelps and Lochte are also entered this week -- pending scratches -- in the 200 back, 200 IM and 100 fly. Another showdown between the two is expected Saturday night in the 200 IM final.

And if you're wondering what's happening in the track and field trials -- you haven't missed anything. They're back in action tonight after two rest days in Eugene. Finals tonight: men's pole vault, men's discus, men's steeplechase, 5,000 meters for men and women. Watch for 37-year-old Bernard Lagat chasing down the young guys like Galen Rupp in the 5,000.

The women's 200 heats get under way with 100 champ Carmelita Jeter going for a double. Also back in action: Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh, who finished in a still unresolved dead heat in the 100 for the third Olympic berth.

Seriously, if that isn't enough, we have the Olympic gymnastics trials firing up in San Jose. Danell Leyva, rock star John Orozco and Jon Horton are among the favorites to earn spots on the U.S. team.




Colorado Springs fire evacuation area expands, as Boulder braces


By Laura J. Nelson and Michael Muskal
June 27, 2012, 3:00 p.m.
State and fire officials on Wednesday expanded the area around Colorado Springs that needs to be evacuated because of the Waldo Canyon blaze, and pre-evacuation orders were issued for a separate fire near Boulder.

More than 1,000 people were fighting the Waldo Canyon blaze -- the state's most-threatening fire though not its largest -- and firefighters were bracing for a changing weather pattern that could hinder their efforts. The blaze abruptly doubled in size overnight and has already forced more than 32,000 residents to flee their homes.

The White House announced that President Obama would visit the Colorado Springs area on Friday to view the damage and to thank emergency personnel. Obama also spoke with municipal and state officials about the series of fires in the state, which has been hit especially hard in this fire season.

In the Colorado Springs area, temperatures were lower and winds were calmer Wednesday morning, a far cry from late Tuesday when winds of 65 mph fanned the flames burning at the city’s edge. The Waldo Canyon fire, which began on Saturday, is about 5% contained, fire officials said.

But the weather pattern is expected to change as the afternoon turns into evening, fire information officer Rob Dyerberg said by telephone.

“Mornings are very mellow, but we see changes later in the day as the sun heats up the air currents,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Thunderstorms are expected but they are unlikely to bring enough water to help firefighters. The thunderstorm cells also create other problems.

“We get more and more winds and thunder cells that create erratic winds. It becomes more challenging and more dangerous as the cells of weather pass through,” Dyerberg said.

As a precaution, officials were expanding the evacuation zone ordered on Tuesday, he said.

The expanded zone now includes some of the small communities around Colorado’s second-largest city, Dyerberg said. It was not known how many people would be added to the 32,000 people already ordered  or asked, to leave their homes, he said.

More than 2,100 of those people are from 600 homes near the Air Force Academy.

“At this point, it is a guesstimate,” Dyerberg said. He confirmed that some houses have been destroyed by the Waldo Canyon fire, but it was too soon to know the extent of the damage.

Based on the latest estimate, the fire has consumed 15,375 acres, about 24 square miles. The doubling happened quickly as fierce winds drove the blaze toward the city. An estimated 500 to 600 police officers, sheriff’s deputies and emergency workers are assisting the 1,000 firefighting personnel at the scene, Dyerberg said.

The Waldo Canyon fire has already burned about 10 acres at the southwestern edge of the Air Force Academy campus, officials said a news conference on Wednesday. About 90 firefighters were at the scene, according to  Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, Air Force Academy superintendent.

Summer classes will continue, he said, and the academy is making plans to process the incoming class of cadets due on Thursday, he said.

Though the fire season is still in its early stages, many Western states have already been hit hard. Record temperatures and a lack of rain have created especially dry fuel conditions, and more than 1.5 million acres of land have been consumed by fires.

Among the states affected have been Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. About 29 large active fires are currently being fought, officials said.

Although the Waldo Canyon fire has received the most attention in recent days because of the number of people in possible danger, the biggest blaze in the state is the High Park fire near Fort Collins, north of Denver.

The High Park fire has burned more than 87,000 acres and destroyed 257 homes. One woman has been killed and about 4,300 people forced to flee. Flames are continuing to race farther into expanses of dead trees in the Roosevelt National Forest.

Colorado Springs: MANDATORY EVACUATION: Crystola, both El Paso and Teller County El Paso County Sheriff

UPDATE! MANDATORY EVACUATION: Crystola, both El Paso and Teller County. Take animals with you- you will NOT be allowed back in. El Paso County Sheriff
Associated Press
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) —
Heat and flames from a destructive wildfire threatening Colorado's second-largest city were far too intense Wednesday morning for authorities to fully assess the damage it caused overnight.

A three-day-old wildfire erupted with catastrophic fury Tuesday, ripping across the foothills neighborhoods of Colorado Springs, devouring an untold number of homes and sending tens of thousands fleeing to safety in what was shaping up as one of the biggest disasters in state history. "This is a firestorm of epic proportions," said Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown. The Waldo Canyon fire in El Paso County — which had been growing in the forested hills on the city's west side — blew into an inferno late in the afternoon, raging over a ridge toward densely populated neighborhoods.

An apocalyptic plume of smoke covered Colorado's second-largest city as thousands of people forced to evacuate clogged Interstate
25 at rush hour trying to get to their homes or to get out of the way.

By nightfall, roughly 32,000 people left their homes, chased out by the flames.

"We have homes burning right now," El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said shortly before 9 p.m.

The sheriff was among those forced from their homes by the fire.

"This is a very bad day," said Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach.

As the fire continued to grow, all of northwest Colorado Springs was ordered evacuated, including the Air Force Academy.

"People are freaking out," said Kathleen Tillman, who drove up I-25 from Pueblo to her house in northern Colorado Springs. "You are driving through smoke. It is completely pitch black, and there is tons of ash dropping on the road."

Officials don't know how many houses have been destroyed in the towering blaze that has forced mandatory evacuations for more than 32,000 residents, Colorado Springs emergency management director Brett Waters said. Among those urgently evacuated Tuesday evening were residents at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

The blaze doubled in size overnight to about 24 square miles, fire information officer Rob Dyerberg said.

Heavy smoke and ash billowed from the mountain foothills west of the city. Bright yellow and orange flames flared in the night, often signaling another home lost to the Waldo Canyon Fire, the No. 1 priority for the nation's firefighters.

"It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine," Gov. John Hickenlooper said after flying over the 9-square-mile fire late Tuesday. "It's almost surreal. You look at that, and it's like nothing I've seen before."

With flames cresting a ridge high above its scenic, 28-square-mile campus, the Air Force Academy told more than 2,100 residents to evacuate 600 households.

A curtain of flame and smoke hung above the academy's Falcon Stadium; billowing gray clouds formed a backdrop to its aluminum, glass and steel Cadet Chapel, an icon of the academy. Elsewhere, police officers directing traffic and fleeing residents covered their faces with T-shirts and bandanas to breathe through the smoke.

"People are freaking out," Kathleen Tillman told The Denver Post. "You are driving through smoke. It is completely pitch black, and there is tons of ash dropping on the road."

Colorado Springs Fire Chief Richard Brown echoed her sentiment, saying, "This is a firestorm of epic proportions."

Thunderstorms are expected near the blaze in the afternoon, but incident commander Rich Harvey says they could bring unpredictable winds that would hinder firefighters' efforts near the city of 419,000 people.

The fire is about 5 percent contained, Harvey said.

Throughout the interior West, firefighters have toiled for days in searing, record-setting heat against fires fueled by prolonged drought. Most, if not all, of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana were under red flag warnings, meaning extreme fire danger.

In central Utah, authorities found one woman dead Tuesday when they returned to an evacuated area. It marked the first casualty in the blaze that authorities said Wednesday burned down 56 structures, the majority of which are homes.

Sanpete County sheriff's officials said they hadn't identified the victim, whose remains were found during a damage assessment of the 60-square-mile Wood Hollow Fire near Indianola.

The nation is experiencing "a super-heated spike on top of a decades-long warming trend," said Derek Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

Elsewhere in Colorado, the 136-square-mile High Park Fire has destroyed 257 homes, authorities said. That fire was triggered by lightning June 9.

And elsewhere in the West:

— A fire that charred nearly 70 square miles west of Ruidoso, N.M., was 90 percent contained, with many residents allowed to return home.

— A wildfire north of Helena, Mont., destroyed four homes and forced additional evacuations. Gov. Brian Schweitzer issued a state of emergency for four counties.

— A wildfire in the Bridger-Teton National Forest grew from about 300 acres to 2,000 acres Tuesday, marking the first major wildfire of the season in western Wyoming.

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DeBruin reported from Indianola, Utah. Associated Press writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M., Rema Rahman and Steven K. Paulson in Denver, and AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

NATHAN OSMOND PAYS TRIBUTE TO TROOPS WITH NEW MUSIC VIDEO

Salt Lake City, UT -- The Salt Flats of Utah will portray the deserts of Afghanistan this Thursday, as they serve as the backdrop in Nathan Osmond's new patriotic Country music video, "Stars & Stripes."

Osmond was inspired to write the song when he met several marines last year in Hawaii. They challenged him to write a song about them and said that Country music listeners would embrace it. Osmond took them up on their challenge and co-wrote the song with Scottish hit-songwriter, Marwenna Diame. The song was produced by Belgium producer, Jo Cassiers. Pretty World Records just released the single to iTunes on Flag Day and already it is being played on major Country radio stations across the nation. "I have so much love and respect for the brave men and women of the United States Armed Forces," said Osmond. "Their families are equally brave and sacrifice so much to keep us free," he said. The song paints the military in the noblest light possible and tugs at the hearts of all Americans as it sings of the many sacrifice made to help keep us free. As the chorus states, "It's an honor fighting for the Stars & Stripes." Nathan's father (pop singer, Alan Osmond) and grandfather (George Osmond) both served in the military.

The video does not feature actors but real soldiers from Utah and their families. It depicts real-life accounts from the deployments of one particular Utah marine, Robert Iverson who was awarded the honorable purple heart when his tank was attacked. "We are grateful to Nathan Osmond for his new song, which refocuses public attention on those who serve, the families left behind, and the sacrifice associated with service to the nation," said Krista Iverson, wife of Robert Iverson who also stars in the video. She continued saying, "As the nation has become increasingly war-weary over the past few years, the subject of the nation's warriors and their families, along with the risks and personal costs associated with their efforts, has faded from the public stage."

Brandon Beckham of Revolution Media is the Director and has been working closely with Utah military families on the production. "Today, more than ever, America needs music and media that inspires and connects us to those who give the ultimate sacrifice for our nation." He continued saying, "We will emotionally depict that patriotic sentiment of Nathan's song."

Osmond wishes to thank his sponsors, Priddis Music & Annin Flagmakers for making this video possible. Rick Priddis, president of Priddis Music Company and executive producer of the video said, "I am excited to have the opportunity to work with Nathan Osmond on this project!" He continued saying, "Members of my family have served in the military and some are currently serving; This cause is very important to me!"

Annin Flagmakers has been selected as the exclusive flag supplier for the production of "Stars & Stripes." BobCaggiano, Vice President of Sales at Annin Flagmakers states, "Over the years our flags have flown over the White House and on foreign fields of battle." He said, "We are pleased to have this opportunity to play some small role in showing our support of our troops."

The video will be sent to major networks across the globe. Osmond's latest music video, "The Tailgate Song" was featured on CMT and Sport's Illustrated's Hot Clicks of the Day. His last 3 singles have all hit #1 on the Independent Country Charts for several weeks and the record label is confident that "Stars & Stripes" will do the same. Osmond was nominated as New Artist of the Year and Male Artist of the Year by The New Music Awards in Los Angeles, CA this year and won the Eagle award last year as Utah's Fresh Local Country Artist of the Year. He just opened for Country superstar, Chris Young last Saturday at the Gallivan Center downtown Salt Lake City as part of this year's, Eagle Country Fest.

(Heading from Salt Lake City, UT) Take I-80 West towards Wendover, NV. You will come to a rest stop on your right hand side between Bonneville Salt Flats State Park and Exit 4. See link for map http://goo.gl/maps/2Xwe There will be red, white & blue balloons at the rest stop as markers. Production team will have transportation for any media to and from the film set on the Salt Flats.

For more information, please contact Dana Robinson (Mr Media)/publicist at 801-427-5853 or dana.mrmedia@gmail.com

The press is invited to attend the video shoot and to conduct interviews between 5pm-5:30pm Wednesday, June 27, 2012