A 2-month-old Colorado wildfire earlier thought to have posed little threat forced hundreds of evacuations Saturday when it burned through three miles of forest in 30 minutes, fueled by 70-mph winds, officials said.
More than 500 residents in Larimer County were ordered to evacuate suddenly in the morning when the Fern Lake Fire overnight consumed thousands of acres of rough terrain and brittle, dead trees killed by beetle infestation.
The fire started Oct. 9 and has destroyed more than 4,400 acres, mostly hilly, Rocky Mountain National Park terrain with few homes in the fire’s path, said Estes Park official Laurie Button. The fire claimed its first structure overnight when it burned a cabin, she said.
By Saturday afternoon, the winds had died down and about 150 firefighters were able to keep the advancing flames in check, she said.
“The terrain is a little more accessible currently so they’ve been able to fight it a little more aggressively,” she said.
Two air tankers from Southern California are due in the state Sunday to help fight the blaze. The fire was last reported to be 40% contained.
Colorado has had a tough year battling wildfires. A fire in October scorched more than 1,700 acres in Wetmore, and the state had its most destructive fire in history over the summer, when a blaze that started in Colorado Springs destroyed nearly 400 homes and killed two people.