Colorado Wildfire Destroys 92 Homes

June 13, 2013

Sheriff’s officials released a preliminary list Wednesday showing the Black Forest Fire northeast of Colorado Springs, Colo. 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, 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.

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.

Wildfires also were burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting one of dozens of lightning-sparked fires.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Forest Service mobilized a pair of Defense Department cargo planes to help — a step taken only when all of the Forest Service’s 12 contracted tankers are in use. At least one was fighting the Black Forest Fire.

No injuries or deaths have been reported, but El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said officials are trying to confirm the whereabouts of one person reported missing.

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

About 60 miles southwest of Colorado’s Black Forest Fire, a 4.5-square-mile wildfire that evacuated Royal Gorge Bridge & Park has destroyed 20 structures, including some in the park.

The Royal Gorge suspension bridge spanning a canyon across the Arkansas River has fire damage to 32 of its 1,292 wooden planks, city officials said. An aerial tram car and tram buildings on either side of the gorge were destroyed, and the tram cable fell into the gorge. An incline railway descending 1,500 feet to the canyon floor was damaged.

Another fire sparked by lightning Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park has grown to an estimated 600 acres in area with trees killed by pine beetles.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has declared disaster emergencies for the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires and a 60-acre fire in rural Huerfano County, authorizing a combined $10.15 million to help pay for firefighting and other costs.

The cause of the fire near Colorado Springs wasn’t clear. The El Paso County sheriff said there were no reports of lightning Tuesday.

At a Wal-Mart and Home Depot parking lot, fire evacuees Greg and Sharon Rambo have set up camp.

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