Multiple wildfires raging in Colorado drove thousands more from their homes Wednesday. Wide areas of wooded residential areas near Colorado Springs were scorched. The fires forced the evacuation of inmates from the nearby Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility, according to the Associated Press.
Colorado remains under a red-flag warning, with 95-degree temperatures and high winds contributing to the critical fire conditions, the National Weather Service reported.
Black Forest Fire
The largest of the fires, the Black Forest Fire, has grown to nearly 8000 acres and destroyed or damaged up to 60 structures as it eats its way through a Colorado Springs neighborhood. The Black Forest Fire remains zero percent contained as of Wednesday morning and is burning fast thanks to winds and temperatures.
The Black Forest Fire is anticipating air support and National Guard Troops to arrive Wednesday and relieve law enforcement officers who have been working non-stop. Army firefighters from Fort Carson have joined the fire line efforts south of Colorado Springs as well as the efforts in the Black Forest area. They brought bulldozer and air support to assist local fire crews with containment of the fires.
Three helicopters also are battling the Black Forest Fire, near the location of last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon Fire. That fire destroyed 346 homes and killed two. Lack of manpower combined with the weather continue to challenge firefighters. Over 150 firefighters and 130 law enforcement personnel are on the fire lines. Thus far, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.
Some personnel are engaged in search and rescue efforts to locate residents who resisted earlier evacuation orders. Officials fear some of these people may have lost their lives when the fire expanded. The El Paso County Sheriff stated unpredictable conditions make the fire scene extremely unpredictable. Priorities are saving lives and protecting the first responders and firefighters, he said. So far, there have been no injuries reported among the fire crews.
Royal Gorge Fire
Another fire is burning the area around the Royal Gorge Bridge near Canon City. Mandatory evacuations were in place for the surrounding area. So far, at least three tourist structures at one end of the famous bridge have been destroyed by the fire. The Royal Gorge Fire had burned more than 3800 acres as of Tuesday evening.
Containment remained at zero percent Tuesday night. Royal Gorge fire spokesman Gregg Goodland told the AP they expect to fight the fire for at least another week. Officials expressed concern for the Royal Gorge Bridge itself. The suspension bridge sits 950 feet over the Arkansas River, and fires are burning at either end of the structure.
The Denver Post reported structures at both ends of the Royal Gorge Bridge were lost to the fire on Tuesday. Wednesday morning, Fire Information Officer Goodland reported the fire burned less intensely overnight.
“We are not 100 percent certain that any portion of that line will hold under extreme fire conditions,” he said. “We have knocked a good portion of this fire down with some great firefighting work overnight, and throughout the day yesterday, but we are not going to call any of it contained until firefighters feel more confident about that.”