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Official: Royal Gorge Bridge damaged by fire but intact

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CANON CITY, Colo. — Managers of the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park vowed Thursday to rebuild the iconic Colorado site after a wildfire destroyed 48 buildings there.

The Royal Gorge Fire continues to burn west of Cañon City in piñon and juniper forests. It was 20 percent contained Thursday afternoon after firefighters were able to get control of the eastern flank, said the fire information website InciWeb.

Evacuation orders were lifted Thursday night and officials reopened U.S. Highway 50 at Cañon City.

Mike Bandera, General Manager of the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park, vowed the park would reopen as soon as possible but admitted there is a “tremendous amount of work to be done.”

LINK: Royal Gorge fire perimieter

He said 48 of the 52 buildings around the bridge were destroyed. The bridge was also damaged, but Bandera said the damage was light.

However, 150 seasonal staff who would have worked at the park this summer have all lost their jobs.

The park has elk, buffalo, bighorn sheep and saddle horses on the property. A spokeswoman said all the animals were OK.

A structural engineer would inspect the bridge as soon as the highway leading to the park reopens. Bandera said he hope to have the park open in a limited capacity within a month. He estimated fully rebuilding would take perhaps a year and cost millions.

Firefighters Thursday continued to build a line around the fire’s perimeter. About 136 people are working the fire with more resources scheduled to arrive later.

The fire is burning in a forest that is 20 to 30 percent beetle-kill trees.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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