Two days after the one year anniversary of the High Park Fire and ahead of the Waldo Canyon anniversary, Colorado’s wildfire season has started in earnest.
Editor's Note: This post collects our updates from Wednesday of the multiple Colorado wildfires. Thursday coverage has moved to this post, additional pictures and up to date information can be found at wildfire.kunc.org.
Three new fires started in southern Colorado Tuesday and another flared up in northern Colorado. The day saw record high temperatures across the Front Range, as well as a nearly statewide red flag warning and a heightened fire forecast. Along with the low humidity, those conditions were ripe for fires.
Here’s what we know about the fires right now:
- Black Forest Fire – 8,000 acres, no containment, estimated 80-100 homes & structures lost (updated 9:36 a.m.)
- Royal Gorge Fire – 3,800 acres with no containment, estimated 3 structures lost
- Kilkus Fire – 60 Acres, 40% contained (updated 10:58 a.m.)
- Big Meadows Fire – 400 acres (updated 12:19 p.m.)
You can find additional updates and information at wildfire.kunc.org.
5:30 Update: The Black Forest Fire is now estimated at 8,500 acres with 92 homes lost. The fire could grow between 11,000 and 12,000 acres by the end of today depending on weather conditions. Today’s increasing winds did not help crews increase containment. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said the home loss estimate is rapidly changing because the fire is moving back into areas that it has already burned. Residents should check Rsg.epcsheriff.com for the most up-to-date information on home loss.
Update 1:25 p.m. - With most fires there is usually a heartwarming moment inside the calamity. The Black Forest Fire won't be the exception to that rule. This video, posted by photojournalist Brian Ferguson is making the social media rounds. It shows a firefighter carrying a baby deer out of the Black Forest Fire, the video was captured by Channel 7News.
Update 12:43 p.m. - Big Meadows Fire: The fire on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park remains at an estimated 400 acres. We've posted a map of the fire perimeter at this post.
Update 12:05 p.m. - Black Forest Fire evacuation map via the Gazette on Twitter.
Update 11:48 a.m. - Black Forest Fire: We reported earlier that Congressman Lamborn secured a verbal agreement to activate Air Force MAFFS to fight the Black Forest Fire. There's now paperwork to back that request [.pdf]. The formal order reads:
- Request two C-130s from 302nd AW be ready for employment from home station (KCOS) to respond to fires in Colorado on June 12th.
- Based on pre-coordination for flight crews, loading and installing of the MAFFS, assignment of a qualified Leadplane, and ability to load retardant out of Pueblo, CO (KPUB) or Rocky Mountain Metropolitan (KBJC) launch orders from KCOS to load and respond to fires are expected for at or near 1300 local.
- Aircraft will utilize home station as bed down location. Federal personnel to support this mission will arrive as soon as appropriate considering mobilization time frames.
Update 11:15 a.m. - Kilkus Fire: The Denver Post has an update on the Kilkus Fire. Far from the spotlight of the Black Forest Fire and the smallest of the four, the Kilkus Fire is now 60 acres and 40 percent contained.
Conditions overnight were favorable allowing firefighters to get a handle on the fire. As Huerfano County spokeswoman Laurie Cordova told the Denver Post, “We're pretty happy — Mother Nature helped us last night and the fire died down with the weather.”
Firefighters are doing the work against the Kilkus Fire without the kind of air support that is committed to both the Royal Gorge Fire and the Black Forest Fire. Crews instead are using bulldozers to build berms and breaks, the Denver Post writes.
Update 10:55 a.m. - Royal Gorge Fire: A note on evacuations via Inciweb.
Mandatory Evacuations are in effect from Parkdale to the Canon City Water treatment plant, north of the Royal Gorge. U.S. Highway 50 is closed in both directions from the Canon City Water treatment plant (1st Street) to Highway 9. Temple Canyon road has also been closed. The Arkansas River has been closed from Spike Buck through Canon City. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park has been evacuated.
Update 10:00 a.m. - Reporter Grace Hood as an update on the Big Meadows Fire, which remains at an estimated 300-400 acres. The Big Meadows Fire is the northernmost fire, burning on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Update 9:49 a.m. - Royal Gorge Fire: The Royal Gorge Fire remains at 3,800 acres and zero percent containment. The fire did not grow overnight and officials are expecting favorable weather conditions Wednesday.
The bridge is inside the perimeter and officials are unable to definitively say if the bridge has been damaged in anyway by the blaze.
Update 9:41 a.m. - Black Forest Fire: When asked at the morning briefing about the early estimates of 40-60 homes lost, Sheriff Terry Maketa said that they "eclisped he 80 and probably got up to 100" on the homes lost estimate.
At this time, the cause of the fire is undetermined.
Update 9:09 a.m. - At the morning briefing for the Black Forest Fire officials described the blaze as still 'very hot, even at 5 a.m. this morning.' More resources are pouring into the state to fight the fire, and that includes the MAFFS which we reported on earlier this morning. Officials are still coordinating air resources, but expect the MAFFS heavy air tankers to arrive on scene around the 11 a.m. hour.
The burn is inside 48 heavily wooded square miles, that impacts 2,625 homes and 7,358 people. Current estimates still stand of 7,500 - 8,000 acres for the size of the fire. Resources include 155 personnel, helicopters, the National Guard to replace law enforcement, and 4 bulldozers on the way up from FOrt Carson to build fire lines.
Update 8:13 a.m. - NASA has posted a sat photo from Tuesday of fires burning both in Colorado and New Mexico. You can see the Big Meadows, Black Forest and Royal Gorge in it. We've posted the picture here.
Black Forest Fire
The Black Forest Fire grew quickly and forced evacuations northeast of Colorado Springs evoking memories of 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire. The initial report of the blaze was near Shoup Road and Highway 83 before 2 p.m and the size at the time was 15 acres.
The Gazette is reporting as of 3 a.m. that the Black Forest Fire is an estimated 8,000 acres. The Gazette further writes that the evacuation area is now 55 square miles, an area that includes 2,000+ homes.
Boundaries of the evacuation zone are north to Hodgen Road, east to Eastonville Road, south Burgess Road and Red Road according to El Paso County. There are pre-evacuations include areas right to the south and east of the evac zone. Current estimates are that 5,469 people are impacted.
KUNC’s Nathan Heffel reports that Congressman Doug Lamborn has secured a verbal agreement to get Air Force MAFFS to fly out of Peterson AFB to help fight the Black Forest Fire. Helicopters, some from Fort Carson, and a heavy tanker were seen fighting the fire Tuesday.
Several dramatic photos were posted to social media, speaking to the smoke generated by the fast growing fire. This video, posted by waynelaugesen shows the strength and size of the fire and first responders working to clear the evacuation zone:
Royal Gorge Fire
Our colleagues at KRCC are reporting that three structures have been lost in Royal Gorge Fire. According to a press release they posted the cause is still under investigation and the fire has jumped the Arkansas River Canyon.
The Royal Gorge Fire is so named because of the proximity to the popular tourist attraction near Cañon City. The Denver Post reports that the bridge has not been damaged in the fire, quoting General Manager Mike Bandera.
"There was structure damage on both sides, but there is no structure damage to the bridge," he said.
Evacuations included the Royal Gorge Bridge, Pueblo Community College Fremont Campus and homes and businesses along Colorado 9. The Cañon City Daily Record is also reporting that Department of Corrections has preemptively evacuated the Territorial Correctional Facility.
The Royal Gorge Fire was reported Tuesday at 1 p.m. on the south side of the river and is burning on private, BLM and state lands. Air resources have been ordered and a DC-10 supertanker was working the fire Tuesday. A Type 2 Management team will take over Wednesday.
Big Meadows Fire
The lightning caused fire was originally a smaller burn, but conditions Tuesday led to flare up with a visible smoke plume that could be seen on the Front Range. According to the Estes Park Trail Gazette, winds helped fuel the fires growth, along with the hot and dry conditions. There’s also plenty of beetle kill in the area, much of which you can see in this photo posted to Twitter by CBS4 reporter Nina Sparano.
The Kilkus fire is the southernmost fire of the four fires, burning west of La Veta, Colo. The Denver Post writes that the fire is 45 to 50 acres, no injuries or lost structures have been reported.