More Evacuations Ordered; Some Lifted at Colorado Wildfires

June 29, 2006

More homes were evacuated as a new 100- to 200-acre wildfire broke out in southern Colorado Friday just as crews made progress on a 13,100-acre fire that kept at least 230 houses under an evacuation order.

Saguache County sheriff’s officials said residents from at least 25 homes are being evacuated and more could be ordered. Larry Helmerick of the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center said a heavy air tanker was being sent to help battle the fire burning about 20 miles east of Del Norte.

The evacuations are the latest to be ordered as fires break out amid hot, dry weather that has lingered over the state for almost the entire month. Residents of the subdivisions near Fort Garland did not have a timeline for when they would be allowed to return.

Volunteer fire information officer Kim Pacheco said crews focused on carving a fire break between the 13,100-acre fire and subdivisions near Highway 160 east of Fort Garland. Earlier in the day, authorities lifted the evacuation order for 70 homes in one subdivision, but of those only 12 are occupied year-round, the rest are vacation homes.

The fire was first spotted Sunday but remained only 35 percent contained Friday afternoon.

As it burned, the fire singed part of the 250-square-mile Forbes Trinchera Ranch and corporate retreat owned by the Forbes corporation, but the headquarters compound and meeting center was untouched, Forbes spokeswoman Monie Begley said Friday.

Meanwhile a fire spotted Wednesday between Silt and New Castle on the Western Slope grew to 750 acres. The fire, about 150 miles west of Denver, south of Interstate 70 was burning in pinon juniper and grass.

It threatened two homes, and seven commercial properties, but no evacuations were ordered, Helmerick said. A high voltage power line that provides electricity to the Denver area during high summer demand was in the area, but it wasn’t clear if it was immediately threatened.

Lighter winds Friday helped crews establish fire lines around that blaze, but hot dry temperatures remained in the area, Lee Rickard, a fire management officer said in a statement.

About 100 firefighters, were on the scene. The fire was 35 percent contained.

In Teller County about 60 miles south of Denver, a 44-acre fire in ponderosa pines and grass was about 98 percent contained Friday, said Four Mile Fire Protection District chief Lance Crummett. The fire at one point this week forced the evacuations of three homes, a threat that has since vanished.

In western Colorado, a 1,530-acre wildfire started by a car wreck Tuesday was 25 percent contained. The fire was burning in juniper, oak and ponderosa pine in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, about 225 miles southwest of Denver near the Utah border. The acreage was revised downward from 1,660 because of better mapping, fire information spokeswoman Barbara Bassler said.

The blaze was expected to be contained by Sunday evening.

About 76,030 acres have burned in Colorado so far this year, according to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center. By comparison, in all of 2005 41,048 acres burned.

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