Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fire Updates

 The Black Forest wildfire has become the most destructive in Colorado history, burning at least 360 homes, officials said Thursday.  The fire is about 10 miles east of last year’s Waldo Canyon fire, which had been the state’s most destructive after killing two people and wiping out 346 homes.  No injuries have been reported from the Black Forest fire, but one person is believed to be missing in the blaze -- one of four in the state. Officials said the cause is still undetermined for the Black Forest fire, which was reported about 1 p.m. on Tuesday.  The number of houses confirmed lost to the wildfire more than tripled overnight, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said at a morning news conference, with at least 360 homes destroyed and 14 others partly damaged.  That number, however, could increase Thursday. Officials have been unable to reach or check on at least 79 addresses, the sheriff said.  Thick smoke that burns throats and stings eyes has blanketed the area, with a haze thickening the air an hour's drive north in Denver. On Wednesday, Denver International Airport temporarily closed two runways due to reduced visibility.  The fire continues to churn through dry trees, grass and pine needles. The fire is burning without any containment, officials said. As of Thursday morning, more than 15,000 acres have been consumed, Maketa said.
   The Royal Gorge 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 inmates at a medium-security prison. 
   Firefighters are battling to keep the 600 acre Big Meadows Fire from crossing the continental divide in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Firefighters want to hold the fire east of Trail Ridge Road (Highway 34), west of the Continental Divide, and north of Tonahutu Creek.  There are 107 firefighters currently on the fire plus the Type II team who will be taking over command of the fire from the Boise Smokejumper Type III team on Thursday.  Air resources include one Type I helicopter, one Type II helicopter and two Type III helicopters.  Many firefighters camped out near the fire Wednesday night to get an early morning start to continue with fire suppression tactics.  
   Meanwhile, the Fern Lake Fire, which started on Oct. 9, 2012, continues to burn near the center of the park.  Unprecedented in the park's history, the 3,500-acre Fern Lake Fire withstood a two-month effort by firefighters from across the country to snuff it last fall. The Fern Lake Fire was temporarily halted by winter snowstorms, but it burns on.  The Fern Lake Fire is located in the largely inaccessible Forest Canyon, which has had been untouched by fire for at least 800 years, according to the park's website. "A long-term drought had left fuels tinder-dry in the forest fuel layer that sometimes exceeds twenty feet deep. Mountain pine beetles have killed half the trees in the canyon, with every compromised tree posing a hazard for firefighters. The typically windy conditions in the canyon only increased the danger," the website says.  "Park fire managers knew from the beginning the Fern Lake Fire was going to be a long-term event. There was limited ability to fight the fire directly because of high winds, steep terrain, and beetle-killed trees. Firefighter safety is the park's number one priority. The high winds impacted both air operations and safety of firefighters," the website says.
   The La Veta - Klikus fire is still at 75% containment, and has seen no growth today.

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