Black Forest fire in Colorado most destructive in state’s history, report says

Published June 13, 2013

| FoxNews.com

The Black Forest fire in Colorado destroyed 360 homes and almost doubled in size Wednesday, making it the most destructive fire in the state’s history, KDVR.com reported.

About 38,000 people in 13,000 homes have been affected by the fire, the station reported.

The fire is likely to continue for a couple more days as temperatures are forecast to stay in the 90s through Friday, with winds gusting up to 30 mph, the report said.

"We are watching the weather conditions very closely," Terry Maketa, the El Paso County Sheriff, told the station. The wind, he said, is probably the No. 1 threat.

Nearby Fort Carson had 130 National Guard troops standing by to assist including patrolling evacuated areas, setting up road blocks and supporting firefighters, said Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback. Fort Carson also sent five helicopters to make water drops.

More residents are out of their homes after deputies from the El Paso County Sheriff's Office went door-to-door overnight evacuating people as danger from a wildfire increased dramatically.

The sheriff's office said in a tweet Thursday that they also worked throughout the night compiling a list of homes destroyed or damaged by the fire, which spread quickly Tuesday, forcing thousands of people out of their homes.

Meanwhile, a wildfire in rural Huerfano County is nearly contained, with all evacuations lifted. The fire is burning on 60 acres and was 75 percent contained by Wednesday evening. No structures have been lost in the wildfire, which broke out about four miles west of La Veta in Huerfano County.

The county's Office of Emergency Management says lower temperatures overnight and slower winds helped firefighters tame the blaze, but winds picked up considerably Wednesday evening. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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

Officials say the Royal Gorge suspension bridge spanning the canyon across the Arkansas River appears in good condition, though 32 of its 1,292 wooden planks are damaged. An aerial tram car and tram buildings on either side of the gorge are destroyed, and the tram cable has dropped into the canyon. An incline railway that descends 1,500 feet to the canyon floor is damaged.

The Royal Gorge Fire has forced 250 people from their homes near Canon City. The fire is estimated at about 4.5 square miles.

Fremont County commissioners are seeking disaster unemployment aid from the state for about 200 park employees.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report

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