EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. — A fast-moving wildfire in the community of Black Forest grew to nearly 8,000 acres with zero percent containment Tuesday night.
Sheriff Terry Maketa with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said the evacuation area includes 24,000 acres, and impacts about 5,469 people who live in 1,966 homes in the area.
Speaking with KOAA-TV Wednesday morning, Maketa said “as many as 100 homes” in the area have been destroyed.
The fire started around 2 p.m. Tuesday, and quickly spread, being pushed by winds and high temperatures, Maketa said. It is among several fires that started burning in Colorado Wednesday.
No cause for the fire had been released as of Wednesday morning.
Video from SkyFOX showed fire had consumed at least 10 homes in the area Tuesday night. Officials were still working on Wednesday morning to determine exactly how large the fire is and how many structures have been lost.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents to the west by Tahosa Lane and Peregrine Way, to the south by Burgess Road, to the east by Meridian Road and north by Hodgen Road. The Cathedral Pines neighborhood was also under mandatory evacuation.
At a 10 p.m. media conference Tuesday, Sheriff Maketa said that the fire had moved across Meridian Road, and that there were mandatory evacuations from Meridian to Eastonville, and from Ayers Road N. to Hodgen Road. Other mandatory evacuations included Goodson Rd. East to Eastonville Rd and Ayer Rd. south to Rex Rd.
Residents to the east and south of the evacuation area were in a voluntary evacuation zone Wednesday morning, but were being asked to their homes immediately if possible, according to deputies. Areas on pre-evacuation notice Wednesday morning include:
- Burgess Rd. south to Stapleton Dr. / Volmer Rd. east to Meridian Rd
- Latigo Blvd. south to Stapleton Dr. / Meridian Rd. east to Hwy 24
- Guy Ranch Rd. south to Stapleton Dr. / Eastonville Rd. east to Elbert Rd
- Burgess Rd. south to Old Ranch Rd & Poco Rd. / Milam Rd. east to Vollmer Rd
Palmer Ridge High School (19255 Monument Rd., Monument) was set up as an evacuation center, as well as New Life Church in Colorado Springs.
Large animal shelters was set up at the Elbert County fairgrounds at 95 Ute Avenue in Kiowa (Phone: 303-718-3343), deputies said. Small animal assistance was being offered at Powers Pet Emergency, which can be reached at 719-473-0482.
Firefighters who were inside the evacuation zone told FOX31 Denver they heard explosions indicating propane tanks at homes had ignited.
Thick black smoke rose above the fire and was visible from as far away as Denver International Airport Tuesday. The sheriff’s office has said it will use the Twitter hashtag #BlackForestFire to update the public.
Air tankers were called in to support firefighters, including a heavy air tanker from Albuquerque, N.M. as well as crews from the Colorado Springs Fire Department. The Colorado Army National Guard and Fort Cason soldiers were assisting with firefighting efforts, as well.
A total of four helicopters, one UH-60 Black Hawk from the Colorado Army National Guard and three helicopters from Fort Carson were helping to fight the flames. An additional COARNG UH-72 Lakota helicopter was providing aerial reconnaissance on the fire, and was set to be placed on standby for search and rescue, as well.
Fifteen firefighter strike teams have been ordered as well. No injuries have been reported as of Wednesday morning.
There will be another media briefing at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Residents can call 719-444-8300 for more information about the fire.