Blog: Wildfires Burn in Colorado, Western States

By Zack
June 12, 2013 5:33 pm Last Updated: June 24, 2015 8:41 pm

LINK: Photos of the fires

LINK: Maps of the many wildfires burning

Latest numbers (as of 8:09 p.m. EDT/6:09 MDT):

Colorado:

Black Forest Fire, in El Paso County (cause unknown)

15,000 acres

0 percent contained

38,000 people in the evacuation area

13,000 homes evacuated

67 square miles under mandatory evacuation; more under voluntary evacuation

360 structures burned (Link: Updated initial home assessments (homes damaged and burned by the fire, as well as those that haven’t been) for El Paso County here)

2 deaths, 0 injuries reported

Royal Gorge Fire in Fremont County (cause under investigation)

3,100 acres

20 percent contained

20 structures lost 

0 deaths or injuries reported

Kilkus Fire in Huerfano County (cause under investigation)

60 acres

75 percent contained

2 homes evacuated; 0 structures damaged

0 deaths or injuries

Big Meadows Fire in Grand County

300 to 400 acres

0 percent contained

0 evacuations

All Rocky Mountain National Park trail heads closed

0 injuries or deaths

New Mexico

Jaroso Fire in Santa Fe national Forest

3,538 acres

0 percent contained

0 structures destroyed or damaged

Silver Fire in Gila National Forest

18,800 acres

0 percent contained

Tres Lagunas Fire in the Las Vegas District

10,282 acres

80 percent contained

596 personnel

Thompson Ridge Fire in the Bernallio District

23,946 acres

60 percent contained

885 total personnel fighting the fire

9 helicopters and 3 air tankers

EvacuationPre-evacuation of the Bennett Subdivision remains in effect.

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Colorado, El Paso County:

UPDATED: Mandatory Evacuations (SEE MAP): North to Baptist Road, west to Sunhills Drive and Granby Road, east to Eastonville Road, and south to Burgess Road.

Preevacuation – 

NEW: I-25 east to Hwy 83, from Northgate Blvd to Hwy 105

Area 1 – Burgess Road south to Stapelton Drive, and Vollmer Road east to Meridian Road.

Area 2 – Latigo Blvd. south to Stapelton Drive, and Meridian Road east to Highway 24.

Area 3 – Guy Ranch Road south to Stapelton Road, and Eastonville Road east to Elbert Road. 

Area 4 – Burgess Road south to Old Ranch Road and Poco Road, and Milam Road east to Vollmer Road.

Voluntary evacuation: The fire is moving closer to you. A mandatory evacuation order may be issued at any time.

Mandatory evacuation: Means you are in immediate danger. Load your family and pets , and GO NOW

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8:30 p.m. EDT (6:30 MDT)

NOTE: As updates on the fires lessen considerably at night, we will slow down our updating as of now. We will update still periodically and, as long as the fires are still going strong tomorrow, start quick updates again Friday morning.

10:23 p.m. EDT (8:23 MDT)

NEW MAP: Black Forest Fire

10:07 p.m. EDT (8:07 MDT)

Rain is helping douse the fires in New Mexico, according to the local NOAA office.

Also, in Colorado, El Pomar has donated $250,000 to assist families impacted by the 15,000 acre fire.

“The collective strength and resolve of our community is clear.  Today, El Pomar Foundation joins individuals, businesses and other organizations to meet this current challenge. Together we can assure our community that its residents and our first responders receive the support they need,” said William J. Hybl, Chairman and CEO of El Pomar Foundation, in a statement.

7:44 p.m. EDT (5:44 MDT)

The destruction has now surpassed last June’s Waldo Canyon fire, which burned 347 homes, killed two people and caused $353 million in insurance claims just 15 miles to the southwest.

7:34 p.m. EDT (5:34 MDT)

Both of the diseased people were found in a garage with the garage doors open. It appeared as though they were about to leave or were just grabbing a few things before leaving.

7:32 p.m. EDT (5:32 MDT)

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said that the cause and origin of the fire are still unknown. When resources permit a hotline will be available to submit tips and information.

7:24 p.m. EDT (5:24 MDT)

A security fire team and a fire squad out of Boulder, CO, rescued a school building amid a forest fire, said Daryll Glenn, El Paso County Comissioner. The two teams made a decision on the spot and stood with their backs to the school. The personnel pushed the fire back and dug a trench to save the building.

7:11 p.m. EDT (5:11 MDT)

Two people have been killed by the fires, said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. A search based on a missing person report turned up a body between 2:00 and 2:30 MDT. Another body was discovered an hour later. A criminal investigation has been started and a coroner is on the scene making identifications.

“The fact that two individuals who lost their life is sad,” said Maketa. “It almost makes talking about the acreage and all that irrelevant.”

7:01 p.m. EDT (5:01 MDT)

Live media briefing starting any moment. Tune in here: http://on9news.tv/15Pfnx5

6:50 p.m. EDT (4:50 MDT)

NEW LINK: Q & A: What’s Going on with the Wildfires in the US?

Also, a briefing about the Black Forest fire is expected to happen in 10 minutes.

6:18 p.m. EDT (4:18 MDT)

Crews continue to try to fully contain the 60-acre Kilkus Fire in Colorado. The Huerfano Emergency Dispatch said via Facebook that “winds continue to make battling the fire difficult.” It remains 75 percent contained. Numerous “hot spots” that are popping up are making 100 percent containment “difficult,” according to the dispatch.

6: 15 p.m. EDT (4:15 MDT)

Smoke, Heat Pose Difficulty to Sizing Up Jaroso Fire

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—Smoke, intense heat and rugged terrain were making it difficult Thursday for fire managers in northern New Mexico to size up a blaze that was racing across thousands of acres of dead and downed trees deep in the Pecos Wilderness.

Officials had estimated that the Jaroso Fire had ballooned to 12 square miles on Wednesday. However, infrared mapping done overnight put the burned area at nearly 6 square miles.

Even though the lightning-sparked fire has charred fewer square miles, officials on Thursday described the behavior of the flames as unprecedented. Years of buildup within the forests have combined with dangerously dry conditions to make for extreme fire danger across New Mexico and many parts of the West.

“We’ve had several years of drought conditions and we’re seeing overcrowded forests. The conditions are the same here as they are in other forests around the country,” said Dorotea Martinez, a spokeswoman with the Carson National Forest.

Read the rest of the story here

5:09 p.m. EDT (3:09 MDT)

Authorities have released numbers of how many animals are currently in shelters as the Black Forest fire in Colorado continues to burn:

Large Animal Shelters have more than 800 receiving assistance.

  • Douglas County Fairgrounds:  200 horses
  • Elbert County Fairgrounds
    • 300 horses
    • 25 cattle
    • 20 mules
    • 6 llamas
    • 20 alpacas
    • 10 sheep
    • 30 goats
  • Iron Horse Open Space:  40 horses
  •  State Fairgrounds, Pueblo:  0 animals
  • Arapahoe Fairgrounds:  0 animals
  • Penrose Center:
    • 100 horses
    • 32 goats
    • 22 chickens
    • 1 pheasant
  • Flying W: no report at this time

Small Animal shelters have 366 receiving assistance.

  • Palmer Ridge High School
    • 58 dogs
    • 20 cats
    • 2 other
  • Pikes Peak Humane
    • 58 dogs
    • 56 cats
    • 56 birds/fowl
    • 15 other
  • Elbert County Fairgrounds
    • 40 dogs
    • 11 cats/kittens
    • 40 fowl
    • 6 rabbits
    • 4 other

5:07 p.m. EDT (3:07 MDT)

More and more people are living in fire-prone areas called “red zones” in Colorado.

One in four homes in the state are in the so-called “red zones,” an increase of 100,000 Coloradans since 10 years ago. The zones are in high danger of being damaged by fires.

The I-News network analyzed U.S. census data and found that 1 million of the 5 million residents of Colorado live in red zone areas, according to KOAA-TV, a local broadcaster in Colorado Springs.

El Paso, Jefferson, and Boulder Counties top the list in Colorado for most residents in “red zone” areas, with El Paso alone having about 278,000 residents in such zones.

The Black Forest Evacuation Zone, which is part of Colorado Springs, consists of 20,000 people and 7,000 homes, according to I-News.

With more and more people coming into Colorado, and with the destruction of forests, Colorado may see more fires similar to the Black Forest Fire, which has already spread to 15,000 acres, in the future.

Without preservation and taking care of the forests, Hubbard said that lack of preservation and taking care of forests could lead to the “Californication of Colorado as far as fires are concerned,” as smaller forest fires that are usually a key part of a healthy forest ecosystem are put out faster because more homes are in or near forest. “[It] just exposes more and more people to potential destruction,” Hubbard said.

4:23 p.m. EDT (2:23 MDT)

Better Weather and More Crews Help Slow Down East Oregon Fires

PORTLAND, Ore.—Better weather and more firefighters have slowed grassland blazes in Eastern Oregon.

Mark Wilkening, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said Thursday that the crews think they have a handle on the Malheur County fires that were caused by lightning and driven two days by windy weather.

He says more firefighters and equipment arrived Wednesday, the winds abated and shifted, and there was spotty rain.

The fires are burning in grass and sagebrush terrain on a total of about 31 square miles — about 20,000 acres — in central Malheur County.

Containment lines have been drawn around about 60 percent of the fire area.

4:03 p.m. EDT (2:03 MDT)

Wildfire season has been officially moved up two weeks in central Oregon by district forester George Ponte.

That means that starting June 14 certain activities will be banned, such as open burning without a permit, according to The Oregonian.

Three wildfires are burning in Oregon at the moment, while others are burning across the western United States. Two of the ones in Oregon have merged, and have in total burnt through about 15,000 acres.

3:40 p.m. EDT (1:40 MDT)

People around where wildfires are burning–and where there are dry conditions–should be careful because fire danger is increasing rapidly, especially in Colorado and other western states where weather conditions are becoming increasingly ripe for fires.

“Colorado is heading into a period where we will have above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation, so the fire danger will increase,” said Boyd Lebeda, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service Fort Collins District and a National Wildfire Coordinating Group-qualified fire behavior analyst, in a news advisory.

Foresters have studied how long it takes different types of dead vegetation to dry out, and found that so-called “fine fuels” such as yellow grasses and small sticks, can dry out in one hour. “Thousand-hour fuels,” like logs up to eight inches in diameter, “can go from waterlogged to completely cured in just 40 days” according to the Forest Service, and quickly spread large fires.

Lebeda says to take caution by avoiding burning brush, flicking cigarette butts, driving ATVs through dead grass, and leaving fire pits unattended. Measures such as moving wood piles away from structures and mowing tall grass in the yard can help guard against fires.

“Attention to details makes a real difference,” Lebeda said.

3:28 p.m. EDT (1:28 MDT)

The Denver Red Cross is operating shelters in the following areas: Palmer Ridge HS, Monument & Elbert County Fairgrounds, Kiowa

2:51 p.m. EDT (12:51 MDT)

Smoke, Terrain Makes Mapping New Mexico Fire Tough

SANTA FE, N.M.—Fire managers say infrared mapping shows a wildfire burning in the Pecos Wilderness of northern New Mexico has not burned as much territory as originally thought.

Fire information officer Lawrence Lujan says heavy smoke, intense heat and rugged terrain have made it difficult for managers to size up the Jaroso Fire.

On Wednesday, they estimated it had ballooned to 12 square miles. An overnight infrared flight now puts the burned area at more than 5 square miles.

A top-level management team assumed responsibility for battling the fire Thursday.

So far efforts have been limited to aerial attack. That’s because it’s too dangerous for firefighters on the ground due to the steep and rugged terrain and dense forest.

So far no structures are threatened by the fire, which was started Monday by lightning.

2:38 p.m. EDT (12:38 MDT)

Several fires burning in California have been completely contained, but others are still burning. Here are the reports from the two biggest.

Daves:

Overview

Crews are currently fighting a lightning fire in the the Mendocino National Forest located in a remote area near Daves Ridge, north of Grindstone Canyon.

The fire is estimated to be more than 200 acres.

Hathaway:

Overview

The Hathaway fire is currently burning in the San Gorgonio Wilderness. Humidity rose overnight as high as 50%, enabling firefighters to get more aggressive with the fire.

Location: North of City of Banning 

Started: June 9, 2013

San Bernardino National Forest

Percent Contained: 40%

Acres Burned: 3326

Injuries: 6

Cause: Under Investigation

Full Containment Expected: June 25, 2013

Resources:

Hand crews 43 Engines 61

Helicopters 16 Water Tenders 21

Air Tankers 6 Dozers 13

Total personnel assigned to fire: 1483

The Hathaway Fire started on June 9th at approximately 1157 AM on the Northern portion of the Morongo Indian Reservation. The fire burned north into the San Gorgonio Wilderness on the San Bernardino National Forest. This area is very steep and rugged terrain, with significant tree mortality as a result of the 1999-2004 drought and bark beetle infestation.

With a significant rise in overnight relative humidity, firefighters were able to progress fire line at a very fast pace. Relative humidity reached as high as 50% forcing the flames and smoke to subside. The fires dormant activity allowed firefighters to fight the blaze in a more aggressive manner, ultimately leading to a substantial advantage in fire line construction. The focus on the fire today will be to continue fire line construction, in the rugged and steep areas to the East. An emphasis will be placed on securing the already constructed perimeter to the West, by removing burning materials near the fire line.

Road Closures / Evacuations: There are no road closures or evacuations in the fire area

Predicted Weather: Stronger west to southwest winds are expected this afternoon; winds are predicted to be 10-15 mph in the afternoon hours, gusting to 35 mph on the ridge tops. Temperature 86°F, Humidity 15%.

2:29 p.m. EDT (12:29 MDT)


TAOS, N.M.—Officials on the Carson National Forest have decided to close trails in the Camino Real Ranger District that access the Pecos Wilderness.

The decision stems from a wildfire burning in the wilderness. The Jaroso Fire has charred an estimated 5 square miles and is sending up quite a bit of smoke as it runs through acres of dead and downed trees.

Forest officials say the closure order includes the Trampas, San Leoandro, Santa Barbara and the Ripley Point trails.

The entire Pecos Wilderness has been closed on both the Santa Fe and Carson forests.

Officials say the unprecedented fire behavior of the Jaroso Fire, the dry conditions and heavy fuel loads has contributed to the extreme fire danger in the area.

Those who violate the closure order could face stiff fines or prison time.

2:16 p.m. EDT (12:16 MDT)

Link: Maps of the many wildfires burning.

1:57 p.m. EDT (11:57 a.m. MDT)

The missing person in the Black Forest Fire has been located and is safe, says the  Colorado Springs Fire Dept Public Information Unit.

Also, there is a meeting about the Royal Gorge Fire open to the public tonight at Canon City High School on 1313 College Ave, according to Colorado broadcaster KKTV. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.

1:54 p.m. EDT (11:54 a.m. MDT)

From the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office, via Twitter:

“The El Paso County Disaster Assistance Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road is up and running, and has seen 48 families so far.”

1:33 p.m. EDT (11:33 a.m. MDT)

Ted Robinson lived in El Paso County for 22 years. In an interview with Piers Morgan Live on the evening of June 12, Robinson shared his thoughts about the Black Forest Fire that is still spreading in El Paso County.

“Every time we saw a jet black plume of smoke we kind of knew that that was a home going up,” he said. “And we saw that happen right about where our neighborhood was and that’s about when we felt like we could be sure that we had lost our home. We’d been there for 22 years.”

His wife has not been taking the tragedy that well.

“For a woman like my wife who was raised there, she’s got a very special connection with the terrain, with the area, with the feel, with the place itself,” he said. “She’s experiencing this loss in a way that resembles the time when she lost her mom and her dad and that is how connected we feel to the place in which we live here. So it’s a difficult experience to go through.”

1:26 p.m. EDT (11:26 a.m. MDT)

Silver Fire in the Gila National Forest near Kingston, New Mexico Update:

The Silver Fire has grown to 18,800 acres and is zero percent contained.

The fire’s behavior decreased overnight as a result of higher humidity and cooler temperatures from thunderstorms passing to the south of the fire.

Storms in the area today are bringing gusty, erratic winds with the possibility of dry lightning further challenging firefighting efforts, according to the official Facebook page for the Silver Fire. “As a result, expect the fire to remain active,” it stated.

Winds today will be predominantly out of the southeast, which will push smoke into the Mimbres Valley, including the Royal John Mine area. Smoke may also be visible from Hillsboro and surrounding communities.

Although there are other fires burning in New Mexico and Colorado, the Northern Arizona Incident Management Team has adequate firefighting resources on hand to fight the fire.

Here is a list of road closings in the area.

-The Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area has been closed east of NM State Highway 152 from the Continental Divide Trail #74 south to Reeds Peak.

-NM State Highway 152 from San Lorenzo to Hillsboro remains closed. The road closure is for east and westbound traffic from 35 miles east of Bayard at mile marker 16 to 10 miles west of Hillsboro at mile marker 40.

-Trail #79 and the Royal John Road are also closed public safety.

There’s also public meetings scheduled for Mimbres Valley and Silver City.

-The Mimbres meeting will be at 6 p.m. June 14 at the Roundup Lodge on Acklin Hill Road in San Lorenzo.

-The Silver City meeting will be at 6 p.m. on June 15 at the Grant County Administration Building, located at 1400 U.S. Highway 180 East in Silver City.

-Additional public information meetings are being held each morning at the Hillsboro Community Center at 10 a.m.

1:24 p.m. EDT (11:24 a.m. MDT)

The Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs has forced many residents to evacuate or take measures preparing to evacuate.

Colorado Springs resident, Lisa Aggarwal, a reporter for CNN, packed up her stuff and left her home with her three children on June 12. Aggarwal told CNN that “My family is scared and just trying to remain calm.”

The grandparents of Ben Garland of the Denver Broncos lost their home in the fire. According to the Huffington Post, Garland said, “It’s tough. It was tough going through it the first time,”

“I know the first time, we didn’t take it as seriously,” he added. “We just thought it’d pass over and the firefighters would take care of it. The second time, it was really scary and they packed up real quick and got ready to go.”

Garland also tweeted, “Hard to go to sleep with so many fires burning and people in danger. Prayers for those working through the night to fight the fires!’

Jaenette Coyne was one of those who lost her home in fire in Colorado Springs. “We had five minutes to leave before the flames were too close,” she told the Huffington Post. “We left with nothing.” Coyne saw smoke closing in on her home and got out in time before the flames devoured her home.

1:16 p.m. EDT (11:16 MDT)

Staff at the water treatment plant for Canon City, CO–where the 3,100 acre Royal Gorge Fire is burning–will be meeting with the fire department later today to discuss what additional measures they can take to protect the facility should the wildfires take a turn in their direction.

A handful of residents near the facility have been evacuated, but Water Superintendent Robert Hartzman says the situation is holding right now.

“We have a pretty good defensible zone around us,” said Hartzman adding that most of their facility is made of brick and concrete. The extra measures will be to protect the rooftops.

Currently the area has been issued a “red flag warning,” meaning high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds.

1:10 p.m. EDT (11:10 MDT)

Six new wildfires in the northwest have flared over the past two days, mostly in Oregon.

Three fires are burning in the states, not far from the western border with Idaho.

The Crowley Creek fire, 20 miles south/southeast of Riverside, Oregon, has burned almost 13,000 acres, and is 60 percent contained,  according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center. It was caused by lightning and isn’t expected to grow anymore.

The Stockade Fire, also 20 miles south/southeast of Riverside, has burned 6,613 acres and is 60 percent contained. 

The South Fork fire, which burned 250 acres southeast of Vale, Oregon, is 100 percent contained as of this morning. 

12:50 p.m. EDT (10:50 MDT)

From the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office via Twitter:

“EPC Fairgrounds still taking animals and RVs. Currently sheltering 11 campers, 86 horses, pigs, llamas, and other animals.”

The sheriff’s office also says the next briefing on the fire, which has grown to 15,000 acres overnight, will be at 5 p.m. 

12:20 p.m. EDT (10:20 MDT)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—The military is providing aircraft, fire trucks, bulldozers and firefighters to help civilian agencies fight wildfires in southern Colorado.

Officials said Thursday the equipment includes four helicopters and two C-130 cargo planes equipped to drop water and fire-retardant slurry.

The military also dispatched seven fire trucks, four bulldozers and 30 firefighters.

The assistance comes from Fort Carson, the Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and the 302nd Airlift Wing in the Colorado Springs area. Buckley Air Force Base outside Denver is also providing help.

Federal law prevents the C-130s from being activated unless all civilian firefighting planes are either in use or unavailable. That produced situations last year in which the C-130s sat unused despite raging fires in Colorado and elsewhere.

12:12 p.m. EDT (10:12 MDT)

The Silver City fire is now at 29 square miles in southern New Mexico in the Gila National Forest west of Hillsboro. 

11:54 a.m. EDT (9:54 MDT)

BANNING, Calif.—A Southern California forest fire continues to grow and has now burned an outbuilding in a remote and rugged area east of Los Angeles.

The U.S. Forest Service says the blaze in the San Bernardino National Forest has charred more than five square miles of brush and dead trees. It’s also destroyed a communications center outbuilding.

However, the fire is 40 percent contained Thursday and no homes are threatened.

The blaze began Sunday on the Morongo Indian Reservation near Banning and spread into the steep San Gorgonio Wilderness.

Nearly 1,500 firefighters and about two dozen aircraft are fighting the blaze.

11:37 a.m. EDT (9:37 MDT)

El Paso County Sheriff Sheriff Terry Maketa:

Expecting winds to start carrying to the southeast. Fires were going northwest and northeast yesterday. Number one priority is growth moving straight west or northwest, because those are more populated areas.

Are there any updates for containment numbers? “We’re not at a point right now that we can actually declare containment.”

11:25 a.m. EDT (9:25 MDT)

El Paso County Sheriff Sheriff Terry Maketa:

“Wind is probably our number one threat. I don’t know any other word to describe it but very dynamic.” Winds are expected to pick up, and continue to spread flames over the next few days.

Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback of the Colorado National Guard:

4 helicopters from Army are assisting in effort, as well as over 130 troops who are cutting fire lines around the perimeter of fire. The troops are also securing neighborhoods that have been evacuated. “Making sure the right people get int here and the wrong people don’t,” said Utterback.

11:18 a.m. EDT (9:18 MDT)

El Paso County Sheriff Sheriff Terry Maketa: 

A big challenge is that as crews are driving around the roads throughout the burned area, there is a layer on top of the soil, it’s like a combination of pine cones and needles and grass and so forth, and it creates almost like a matting. Not a fire, then 10 minutes later it will be inflamed again.

“We have a large area when you’re thinking of 15,000 acres, and you can drive through one hour and things look pretty well calmed down, then you have a gust of wind and you have a fire raging.” 

11:15 a.m. EDT (9:15 MDT)

El Paso County Sheriff Sheriff Terry Maketa: 

The evacuation area covers over 94,000 acres, or a population of 38,000 people, and it impacts about 13,000 homes. 15,000 acres have been burned. 

11:04 a.m. EDT (9:04 a.m. MDT)

The United States Postal Service in El Paso County says it can’t deliver mail to about 2,800 addresses in the zip code 80908; mail is being held at the Briargate PO, 8585 Criterion.

Also, officials are expected to give an update any minute now on the Black Forest fire.

5:58 a.m. EDT (3:58 MDT) Due to dynamic changing conditions, Highway 83 east to Walker Road in Eastonville and north to County Line have been evacuated. The Colorado Springs Fire Department reports foot patrol and door-to-door notification was used to evacuate Wednesday evening. The evacuation was mandatory.

5:45 a.m. EDT (3:45 MDT)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—Jaenette Coyne estimates she had five minutes to leave home after calling 911 to report forest fire smoke behind her home.

There was no time to grab wedding albums, fingerprint artwork by her 20-month-old daughter, quilts her grandmother made, her family’s three cats.

“We left with nothing,” she said.

She and her husband later watched on television this week as flames engulfed their house.

“I don’t know how to tell you in words what it felt like,” she said. “It’s the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my whole life.”

Sheriff’s officials released a preliminary list Wednesday showing the Black Forest Fire northeast of ColoradoSprings has destroyed at least 92 homes and damaged five more. The fire was among several that surged rapidly Tuesday along Colorado’s Front Range.

Fueled by hot temperatures, changing gusts, and thick, bone-dry forests, the Black Forest Fire has prompted evacuation orders and pre-evacuation notices to between 9,000 and 9,500 people and to about 3,500 homes and businesses, sheriff’s officials said.

Part of neighboring Elbert County, including two camps with a total of about 1,250 children and adults, also was evacuated.

A separate Colorado wildfire to the south has destroyed 20 structures, including some in Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, and prompted evacuations of about 250 residents and nearly 1,000 medium-security prison inmates who were taken to other facilities. To the north, another fire burned in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Read the rest of the story here

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Photos of the fires in Colorado

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9:25 p.m. EDT (7:25 MDT)

SANTA FE, N.M.—A wildfire burning in the steep and narrow canyons of the Pecos Wilderness north of Santa Fe ballooned to more than 12 square miles on Wednesday.

Fire managers said it’s still too dangerous to put any firefighters on the ground. The only option for battling the Jaroso Fire has been a fleet of water-dropping helicopters.

The other problem is the area has an immense amount of fuel that has built up over the years. Duane Archuleta, the fire management officer for the Santa Fe National Forest, said the fire is now burning through an area where dead trees are stacked up to five feet high.

There are also pockets of bug-killed timber that are dry and ready to ignite.

“This fuel type, when it’s ready to burn, it’s going to burn and there’s not a whole lot people can do about it,” Archuleta said.

Archuleta expected the fire to make more “hard runs” on Wednesday. That comes after the lightning-sparked blaze more than quadrupled in size on Tuesday, growing from 360 acres to more than 9 square miles and sending up an enormous plume of smoke.

Read the rest of the story here

9:22 p.m. EDT (7:22 MDT)

The Silver Fire in New Mexico has grown to 17,000 acres, according to the latest update from New Mexico Fire Info, a joint federal-state information service.

With the blaze facing southwest, fire crews are “conducting a small burnout operation” this evening in efforts to protect the historic community of Kingston—a famed ghost town about 190 miles southwest of Albuquerque.

The 2010 Census puts the population of Kingston at just 32 souls, but during the town’s heyday as a silver mine in the 1880s, the population stood at 7,000.

9:08 p.m. EDT (7:08 MDT)

Latest from the Colorado Springs Fire Department, via Twitter:

Be careful of scams during #blackforestfire, odd phone calls, emails, asking for personal information. Report to local law enforcement.

8:47 p.m. EDT (6:47 MDT)

Latest from the El Paso Sheriff’s Office, via Twitter:

El Paso County Fairgrounds needs waterbuckets halters lead ropes hay for horses. Room for 100 more horses. #blackforestfire

8:40 p.m. EDT (6:40 MDT)

Video: Baby deer saved from Black Forest fire

8:33 p.m. EDT (6:33 MDT)

A camp in Elbert County, Colorado have been evacuated amid concerns that the Black Forest fire may keep spreading. The Peaceful Valley Boy Scout Ranch has been evacuated and the children there were relocated at the Elbert County Fairgrounds located in Kiowa, at 95 Ute Ave.

Another camp, the JCC Ranch Camp, says that despite reports it has not been evacuated, although it has shut down its pool for the time being.

8:20 p.m. EDT (6:20 p.m. MDT)

The fire in Royal Gorge, Colorado may have damaged the historic Royal Gorge Bridge

The bridge is still intact but its structural integrity needs evaluation, according to the Denver Post citing fire information officer Mike Smith. The bridge is mostly steel but has wooden plankings.

“Even if it didn’t char the planking, the heat from adjacent burning buildings may have affected the cables,” he said.

8:17 p.m. EDT (6:17 MDT)

CANON CITY, Colo.—Prisoners who were evacuated because of the fire near Canon City include murderers, rapists and offenders who committed other serious crimes.

More than 900 prisoners at the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility were evacuated overnight Wednesday as a precaution. The prisoners were transferred by bus and van, 200 at a time, throughout the night.

Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said the evacuation will remain in effect until the fire danger is over.

Most of the prisoners were transferred to other nearby prisons, but some patients from the infirmary had to be taken to the Denver Reception and Diagnostic center, which has the ability to care for patients who require medical care. They include prisoners recovering from minor surgery, with mental health problems, the elderly and others who are in hospice care.

8:05 p.m. EDT (6:05 MDT)

Update–the number isn’t working for us, we’re looking for the right number. Also, the Adams County Fairgrounds in Brighton, Colorado, are open to RVs, horses, and livestock. Call first: 720-810-3288.

The Denver Humane Society is rescuing pets from the Black Forest evacuation zone. Call 303-473-1741 extension 1 if you have left your pet behind.

7:50 p.m. EDT (5:50 MDT)

Starting Tuesday night, two separate fires at Stockade and Crowley Creek, located about 5 miles east of Stockade Mountain in the southeast corner of Oregon, burned together creating one large fire that is currently consuming 15,000-16,000 acres.

Mark Wilkening, spokesman for the Bureau of land management for Oregon and Washington, says the fire is about 30 percent contained at this point and he expects containment to go better during the rest of the day.

However, the bureau has been ordering more fire crews to battle the fires  given an overnight forecast of high winds and thunder and lighting—but no rain.

“Some weather is starting to move in right now,” said Wilkening at 7:35 pm EDT.

“Most of the time we don’t get a lot of rain, just thunder and lightning … that go sideways,” he added.

Wilkening said that since they are in the northwest, they are not competing for firefighting resources with Colorado and New Mexico.

7:40 p.m. EDT (5:40 MDT)

A family escapes from the Black Forest fire

7:30 p.m. EDT (5:30 MDT)

Fires have been burning in states other than Colorado, too. Here’s what’s happening in those states.

New Mexico-

Residents in Pecos Canyon and areas east of the Tres Lagunas fire may be impacted by smoke coming from the Jaroso Fire in the Pecos Wilderness.

The fire is burning deep in the wilderness so at present no communities are threatened. It has burned a space approximately 2 to 3 ½ miles long, and the smoke column is reaching close to 20,000 feet in the air, forming 3 distinctive heads, and taking more shape. Firefighters and helicopters are battling the flames.

Smoke from the Jaroso fire will likely be significant today and transported over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains towards Mora, Holman and northeastern New Mexico.

Two other fires, in the Gila National Forest and the Santa Fe National Forest, are 0 percent contained. Two others, in Tres Lagunas 15 miles north of Pecos, is 77 percent contained (burning at 10,237 acres), and in Thompson Ridge, 10 miles north of Jemez, is 50 percent contained (21,900 acres)

Nevada-

Two fires are burning in Nevada; a 727 acre fire in the Carson City district, and a 1,254 acre fire in Ferguson 40 miles northwest of Eureka, which is 80 percent contained.

Wildfires near Kingsbury Grade in Douglas County, Nevada started on June 12 at around 3 pm. MDT. The growing fires are currently spreading over 3 acres.  Winds are pushing the fires towards the northeast. The U.S. Forest Service and the East Fork Fire Department are on site. Officials are advising residents to stay away from State Route 207.

Oregon-

Two fires are burning: one in Crowley Creek, at 11,000 acres and 30 percent contained, and another in Stockdale, 4,000 acres and also 30 percent contained.

Arizona-

One fire is burning in Arizona, 20 miles northeast of Morenci. The 12,019 acre fire is 0 percent contained.

California-

A 2,850 acre fire is burning in the San Bernardino National Forest

7:15 p.m. EDT (5:15 p.m. MDT) 

92 homes lost to the Black Forest Fire, according to Maketa. 315 homes still standing.

“We still have heavy engagement of multiple helicopters.” Situation is still “very dangerous.” The fire is changing directions rapidly. The sheriff has not announced a pre-evacuation notice for east of I-83 yet, but they are preparing to possibly do that. “Get into that ready, set, go mode,” says Maketa. Collect valuables and be ready to evacuate.

7:10 p.m. EDT (5:10 MDT):

Sheriff Terry Maketa of El Paso County

Black Forest fire

Fire has moved in two different directions, both to the northwest and the northeast. 

8,000 acres, expect it might rise to 11,000 to 12,000 acres. Affecting about 400 residents. Very dry conditions. “If there is anything working to our benefit, it’s the terrain.” Lots of roadways that are easy to access. 487 fire personnel, and 112 law enforcement officials battling fire.

7:00 p.m. EDT (5:00 MDT)

Current fire statistics from the National Interagency Fire Center

Number of new large fires

8

States currently reporting large fires:

Number of active large fires

Total number includes full suppression and resource managed fires.

Total does not include individual fires within complexes.

14

Arizona (1)

California (1)

Colorado (3)

New Mexico (4)

Nevada (2)

Oregon (2)

Washington (1)

Acres from active fires

42,098

 

Fires contained on 6/11/13

1

 

Year-to-date large fires contained

131

 
     

 

6:58 p.m. EDT (4:48 MDT)

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office has released a preliminary home assessment map, available here.

6:55 p.m. EDT (4:55 MDT) 

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed three Executive Orders today, June 12, to declare disaster emergencies related to the three biggest fires burning in the state. The orders authorize $10.15 million to help pay for firefighters and other costs. The fires are the Black Forest Fire, the Royal Gorge fire, and the Kilkus fire.

6:50 p.m. EDT (4:50 MDT)

Officials will give an update on the fires in about 10 minutes

Also, the Rocky Mountain National Park said that ozone levels are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups, including those with lung disease or children and older adults, in the area. 

6:47 p.m. EDT (4:47 MDT)

Denver and the rest of Colorado is hot this week, with temperatures climbing above 100 F in some places. Today there are temperatures of 90 to 100 F across the state, making the fires more dangerous, especially when factoring in the wind in some places.

6:45 p.m. EDT (4:45 MDT) 

State Tanker Fleet For Colorado? Wildfires Continue Debate

DENVER—Colorado lawmakers passed several bills this year to prepare for future fire seasons in response to last summer’s devastating wildfires

But it’s a bill to establish a state-owned aerial firefighting fleet that’s getting the most attention and partisan wrangling as wildfire season begins.

The Republican-sponsored bill signed into law last week created the Colorado Firefighting Air Corps, with a mission to purchase or contract firefighting aircraft. However, the bill passed without the $17.5 million needed retrofit unused aerial tankers.

Four destructive fires are currently burning around the state and the wildfires are once again posing the question of whether enough aerial resources are available to combat them.

The federal government has 10 air tankers to combat fires, and all of them were being used Wednesday nationwide.

6:35 p.m. EDT (4:35 p.m. MDT)

Red flag warnings are in effect for across Colorado because of gusty winds and low humidity. They remain in effect until tonight in some places, and up to through Thursday evening in others.

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Guidelines for wildlife recovery from wildfires and other issues are available here.

6:25 p.m. EDT: U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) has announced that six Colorado counties are now designated as primary natural disaster areas because of severe drought conditions, including Dolores, Hinsdale, and La Plata.

6:20 p.m. EDT: Five fires in California have all been contained, according to California state fire map.

6:15 p.m. EDT: The Royal Gorge fire, which is outside of Canon City, Colorado and separate from the Black Forest fire, has been downgraded to 3,000 acres, according to the local Denver ABC channel. 20 structures have been lost in that fire, which is now 20 percent contained.

6:00 p.m. EDT: Nearly 75 personnel from the Colorado Army and Air National Guard are assisting local firefighters and others to battle the Black Forest fire. Three UH-60 Black Hawks, each equipped to be able to deliver nearly 500 gallons of water at a time, have dropped approximately 30,000 gallons of water on the fire so far.

5:55 p.m. EDT: Video: Mules escape fire

5: 50 p.m. EDT: There’s RV and horse space at Cactus Creek Ranch off of exit 122 off of I-25, according to the Colorado Springs Fire Department. The department says to call ahead. Number is 719-306-5933.

The department also said that Walker Road and Evans Road are closed.

5:45 p.m. EDT: Voluntary evacuation order issued for North Colorado Springs area

Area: West to I-25 and all areas north of Old Ranch Road within the City limits of Colorado Springs. 

Evacuation is recommended because the fire is moving west. A mandatory evacuation order “may be issued at any time,” according to the city of Colorado Springs.

5:40 p.m. EDT: The Colorado Springs Fire Department says that the information number, 719-444-8300, is currently inundated. “Be patient,” the department’s public information unit said on Twitter. “Your call will be answered ASAP.”

5:35 p.m. EDT: Introduction: A fire burning in the Black Forest of north of Colorado Springs is estimated at 7,500 to 8,000 acres and is 0 percent contained, according to El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Local authorities aren’t sure how many homes have been burned but are estimating up to 100 in a fire that has been burning for multiple days.

The Colorado Army National Guard has joined in the effort to fight the fire, one of several burning in Colorado.

Wildfires were also burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California.

 Epoch Times staff members Milene Fernandez, Daniel He, Cindy Drukier, and the Associated Press have contributed to this report.