Royal Gorge Fire at 3,100 acres; Firefighters worried about Thursday’s forecast

CANON CITY, Colo. — Officials at the Royal Gorge Fire said late Wednesday they’re concerned about the weather and wind forecast for Thursday. They say there’s a good chance conditions will turn volatile again.

The wildfire west of Cañon City has threatened but so far not damaged the iconic bridge in southern Colorado.

The wildfire, which started around 1 p.m. Tuesday, is at 3,100 acres in size, said the fire information website InciWeb.

Firefighters managed to make some progress on the fire Wednesday, which is now 20 percent contained. But they’re worried about the forecast Thursday.

LINK: View the fire perimeter

The fire started on the south side of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Arkansas River. It crossed the river and moved north.

“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.

Several structures around the Royal Gorge bridge have been destroyed by the fire, but the bridge itself has not been damaged. Goodland could not say what kind of structures they were.

Mandatory Evacuations are in effect from Parkdale to the Canon City Water treatment plant, north of the Royal Gorge. U.S. Highway 50 is closed in both directions from the Canon City Water treatment plant (1st Street) to Highway 9. Temple Canyon road has also been closed.

The number one priority is the safety of the public and to minimize risk to firefighters,” said Dennis Page, Incident Commander for the Royal Gorge Fire. “

“We have many firefighters from multiple jurisdictions working together on this incident and have jelled well,” he said.

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

About 150 firefighters and law enforcement officers are working the fire lines. Officials have also called in two single-engine air tankers and one heavy air tanker.

The Department of Corrections evacuated 881 prisoners from Territorial prison to the E. Cañon City complex because of the fire.

LINK: Time lapse video of the Royal Gorge fire starting

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

KKTV-TV interviewed a farmer who lived close to the fire.

“I’m watching the flames just fly up the mountain, burst these dried trees and then die down,” the farmer said. The fire was moving away from his farm, he said, but he said that there wasn’t a lot of fuel for a fire because much of it had withered away.

The cause of both fires are under investigation, officials said.