Wildfire destroys structures, forces evacuation of Beulah Valley in Pueblo County

BEULAH, Colo. -- A wildfire near Beulah in southern Colorado forced evacuations for more than 1,000 people on Monday, the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office said.

The fire exploded to more than 3,000 acres by late Monday night because of strong winds and dry conditions. An evacuation of the entire Beulah Valley was ordered just after 10 p.m.

Residents were told to use Highway 78 to evacuate to Pueblo. A shelter was being set up at the Events Center at the Colorado State Fair.

At least seven structures were lost earlier Monday.

The sheriff's office said the initial evacuation order was for a two-mile radius around the 8300 block of Highway 78. It also included 3R Road, about 23 miles southwest of Pueblo. The fire was burning just northeast of Beulah.

Buelah Hill Fire evacuation map

The evacuation expanded throughout the evening Monday.

In addition to the State Fair location, Roncalli Middle School on Highway 78 was designated as the shelter for residents who had to leave their homes.

Many weren't sure what they would return to.

"I've lived through tornadoes. I used to live in the Midwest and even that wasn't as terrifying," said Laura Heins, who had to evacuate from the Mountain Shadows Mobile Home Park.

"The sunlight was red and the smoke was over our heads, and the embers were dropping from the sky and that was when they were running around the neighborhood saying the fire is going to be here within the hour and get out," she said.

The sheriff's office said some structures were affected by the fire.

Harvey Norris wasn't home when the fire started and wasn't allowed to return to his home to get his 87 year-old father. His father is safe, but Norris said the flames were just one property away.

"I might as well you bet you everything it will be gone," he said.

Power was out in Beulah and Rye late Monday afternoon. It was restored in Rye by 6 p.m.

A shelter was established for small animals at Pueblo Animal Services (4600 Eagleridge Place). There was a shelter for large animals at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.

Help was on the way from metro Denver on Monday night.