Colorado wildfire destroys structures, forces evacuations

"We have confirmed four structures lost - one home and three other structures were lost on the Junkins Park Loop near where we believe the origin of the fire was", Custer County Sheriff Shannon Byerly told the Pueblo Chieftain.

As of Tuesday, 175 properties had been evacuated and 70 more put on pre-evacuation status in Custer County.

Five homes have been destroyed because of the wildfire, and 13 outbuildings have been lost.

People in nearby Beulah, which was evacuated by another wildfire earlier this month, were among those who have been warned to be ready to evacuate.

Taking advantage of light winds, crews were building containment lines along the north side of the fire to prevent it from spreading with stronger winds from the south forecast to develop later in the day, fire operations section chief Dan Dallas said.

The Custer County Emergency Management Office said the fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. Monday east of the town of Westcliffe.

It had grown to 21 square miles by Monday evening, said El Paso County sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Perez.

Temperatures were only expected to be in the 50s on Wednesday.

Firefighters from Trinidad, Walsenburg, La Junta and Lamar have been dispatched to Pueblo County to help fight the fire.

In Southern Colorado, red flag wind warnings are in effect for today and Tuesday and low humidity combined with the unpredictable winds makes fighting the fire "very perilous", Byerly said.

Oscar Martinez, a district ranger with the U.S. Forest Service, said he hoped crews could fully contain the fire on Tuesday.

Evacuees with large animals can take them to the Saddle Club at the Custer County Fairgrounds.

Evacuations were ordered in Custer County for county roads 358, 385, 387 and 389; the Eagle Spring Ranch subdivision; Highway 165 from McKenzie Junction to Highway 78; Highway 96 from McKenzie Junction to County Road 390; Greenwood Road; and Babcock Hole.

A water-dropping helicopter is assisting county and Pike National Forest firefighters in battling the blaze.

An evacuation center has been set up at Valley Bible school in Westcliffe.

  • Leroy Wright