Wildfire, one of dozens in West, threatens Colorado mountain town

Wildfires approach the town of South Fork, Colo., on Thursday. The town was evacuated Friday morning.
(U.S. Forest Service)

A large wildfire raging in southwest Colorado was threatening a small mountain town on Friday, with high winds and hot weather hindering efforts to battle the flames.

Residents were evacuated as the blaze moved within seven miles of the tourist town of South Fork on Friday. The town has 400 permanent residents, but many as 4,000 people were living there in summer residences, said Steve Till, public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service. Till did not have an estimate for the number of homes threatened by the flames.


The mayor of South Fork, Kenneth Brooke, told the Associated Press he was staying in town to help responders prepare to hose off structures. He said he has been taking calls from worried neighbors.

“I just tell them it doesn’t look good,” Brooke said. “I tell them the truth, that the fire is coming. I just tell them to keep themselves safe as need be and don’t come back.”

The fire, fueled by dead pinewood, has reached almost 30,000 acres, stoked by high winds and hot weather. Crews have suspended aerial firefighting operations because of the windy conditions.

“The reality is, if you get a fire like this that’s heavy, heavy fuels, very dry fuels and a lot of wind, there really is no safe way to attack it directly,” Till said.

The West Fork Complex fire is one of 10 fires in Colorado. On Thursday, crews fully contained the Black Forest Fire, which destroyed more than 500 homes and killed two people to become the state’s most destructive fire in history.

In the south-central part of the state, the East Peak fire grew to 9,100 acres, destroying nine homes and four outbuildings in its path.

In all, at least 21 large blazes with no containment are burning in the West, officials said, with a total of 27 incidents classified as large across seven states.

In Arizona, 460 residents were evacuated as the Doce Fire burned through more than 6,700 acres about eight miles northwest of Prescott. There are 605 responders fighting the fire, which is about 10% contained.

New Mexico crews were fighting 11 active fires. The Silver Fire in Gila National Forest, the largest there, has burned more than 44,000 acres.


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