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Royal Gorge Fire now at 3,800 acres; 3 structures destroyed

DENVER — A wildfire burning in the Royal Gorge Park in southern Colorado has grown to 3,800 acres, firefighters said Tuesday night.

It is zero percent contained.

LINK: View the fire perimeter

According to the Canon City Area Fire Protection District, the fire is on the south side of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Arkansas River. It started on the south side of the river.

“This fire is not going away real soon. This fire is going to be burning for a number of days,” said Royal Gorge Fire Information Officer Gregg Goodland during a Tuesday evening update.

The fire has destroyed three structures so far.  Goodland could not say what kind of structures they were.

There were reports that the Department of Corrections evacuated 881 prisoners from Territorial prison to the E. Cañon City complex because of the fire.

The fire crossed the Arkansas River and went near the Royal Gorge bridge, but Goodland said the latest information indicated it had not damaged the bridge.

“The last I heard the Royal Gorge Bridge is not on fire, but yes it is in danger,” Goodland said.

Firefighters from Canon City are responding as are resources from the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service. About 125 firefighters are working to get the fire contained with more on the way.

The fire started around 1 p.m. Tuesday and is burning on BLM, state and private lands.  It is among several wildfires that started burning in the state.

Authorities have described the fire as a major blaze that is moving quickly.

LINK: Time lapse video of the Royal Gorge fire starting

Resources on the scene include three fire engines, one airtack plane, one helitack crew, one hotshot crew, one 20-person crew, multiple county resources and one BLM and forest service firefighting squad, the BLM said.  A Very Large Air Tanker has dropped a load of fire retardant, Goodland said.

More resources are on the way including two single-engine airtankers, one Type 1 hotshot crew, three hand crews and one Type 3 Incident Management Team.

The south side of the Royal Gorge Park is under a mandatory evacuation. This includes Parkdale to Soda Point, north of the Royal Gorge.  About 1,400 visitors and 200 staff have been evacuated.

U.S. Highway 50 is closed in both directions from Soda Point to Highway 9. Temple Canyon road has also been closed.

Canon City police tweeted that they estimated Highway 50 would be closed overnight, and that alternate routes are advised.

The Arkansas River has been closed from Spike Buck through Canon City. The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park has also been evacuated.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported officials have evacuated passengers on the Royal Gorge Railway train and several groups of river rafters.

Red Cross volunteers are staffing an evacuation center for evacuees at the Evangelical Free Church (3000 E. Main St., Cañon City).

RoyalGorgeBridge.com has a livestreaming camera looking at the bridge and the fire is visible in the background.

According to the National Weather Service, wind speeds at the gorge are at 30 to 40 mph, and the temperature is 95 degrees.

This story will be updated as more information arrives.