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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
David Mullen and Jessica Snouwaert

Wildfire erupts in Colorado's Estes Park; evacuations ordered

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A wildlife that broke out Tuesday morning near Kruger Rock in Estes Park burned 115 acres of forest by Tuesday evening and was only 11% contained, according to the Larimer County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities evacuated several residential areas Tuesday near the blaze.

"Homes are being threatened as of right now. We have not had any reports of damage to homes. Our fire crews are doing a really good job of structure protection and trying their best to ensure that those homes stay safe," said David Moore, a spokesman for the sheriff's office.

The fire was reported just before 7 a.m. The area's rugged terrain and winds that topped 40 mph made it more difficult for firefighters to contain the blaze, Moore said.

"It's very steep. It's very difficult to get firefighters to get in there to attack the fire, as well as the high winds," Moore said during an afternoon briefing. "If we can get air resources in there safely, (then) we will."

Winds leveled off in the afternoon, allowing 150 firefighters from six agencies to battle the blaze. A total of 17 agencies were assisting in emergency response efforts, according to the sheriff's office.

Weather forecasts called for wind gusts to top 20 mph overnight and into Wednesday, which could lower the chance of the blaze spreading. However, wind speeds are expected to rise on Wednesday into Thursday, said Russell Danielson, a metrologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder.

The sheriff's office issued mandatory evacuations for the area of Little Valley, Fish Creek and Hermit Park shortly before 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Other areas that were under voluntary evacuations such as Meadowdale, Big Elk Meadows and Pinewood Springs west of U.S. 36 were upgraded to mandatory evacuations in the afternoon.

Jacqueline Beskid, who lives in the Little Valley subdivision, said she just got back inside from taking her 12-year-old golden labrador, Copper, on a walk when she saw flames.

"I looked out the window and there was a fire," she said. "I was concerned, but we've seen this kind of thing before, so we decided to get ready to leave."

Facebook posts from people in the area showed flames and smoke on a hillside above homes, but the protection district said no homes had been lost.

Emergency responders set up evacuation sites at the Estes Park Event Center, the communications center said.

U.S. 36 is closed between Mall Road in Estes Park and Apple Valley Road west of Lyons.

The U.S. National Forest Service closed the lands south and east of Estes Park due to fire. Additionally, the Twin Sisters area within Rocky Mountain National Park was also closed.

The cause of the fire is unknown, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office said.


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