Before the war, Highlands Ranch was one of the first suburban communities. It received a heavy dose of fallout from the Lockheed Martin nuclear strike, but was mostly spared the fire damage that devastated southwest Littleton.

However, the area suffered heavily from arson and looting in the chaotic winter of 2012. As food became scarcer, neighborhoods divided into armed camps bent on self-preservation. Grocery stores, hardware stores, and gas stations became valuable turf worth fighting and killing for. Neighbors who had been friends over the fence grew into deadly enemies who killed each other over imaginary stashes of food.

In 2013, Highlands Ranch is a free fire zone that few willingly enter. Almost a dozen petty fiefdoms exist between neighborhood gangs, with only the brave or the insane living between them. On warm nights, bands of young men and women go "wilding" among the abandoned homes, search for salvage and wrecking random destruction.

Gangs hoping to ambush trains and steal cargos often sabotage the rail tracks that run along Sante Fe. Structures near the tracks have received heavy damage and many have burned to the ground.