Thousands flee CO wildfires

7:14 AM, Jun 12, 2013   |    comments
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BLACK FOREST, Colo. - Four wildfires burning across the state Wednesday have destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands to evacuate, including 900 inmates from a state prison.

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said the Black Forest Fire destroyed more than 40 homes after the blaze ignited Tuesday. It was zero percent contained.

Black Forest is a residential area northeast of Colorado Springs named for its thick growth of Ponderosa Pines. Maketa said about 2,300 homes, affecting about 6,400 people, were evacuated.

Record high temperatures and strong winds were making containment efforts difficult. "Weather is not working with us right now, but our guys are giving it a heck of a shot," Maketa said.

Six helicopters and an air tanker were on the scene, Maketa said. The office of Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said C-130 cargo planes were expected to be prepared to help fight the fire Wednesday.

The area is not far from last summer's devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 346 homes and killed two.

"It's very, very reminiscent of what we experienced in Waldo Canyon," Maketa said.

However, there were no immediate reports of injuries in the fires.

The fire was one of several burning across the state, including one near Royal Gorge Bridge that had destroyed three structures and forced evacuation of Old Max, the Territorial Prison in Canon City.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said inmates were taken to other prisons overnight as a precaution because of the danger from heavy smoke. The fire had not reached the prison.

Some highways were closed amid flames reported as high as 30 feet. Evacuations were underway.

"The wildfire is still creating some havoc," said Bob Wilson, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation told The Gazette in Colorado Springs.

"It's moving really quick," Brandi Grandon, 43, told the Gazette as she prepared to evacuate her home a half mile from the nearest flames. "This is horrifying."

The Black Forest wildfire isn't the only one crews have to deal with:

  • A wildfire that erupted Tuesday in rural Huerfano County, tThe Klikus Fire, had burned an estimated 45 to 50 acres west of La Veta, prompting evacuation orders for about 200 residences.
  • A lightning-caused wildfire burning on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park that sent heavy smoke across Fort Collins.


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