Sunday, June 23, 2013

Crews work to save Colo. town as wildfire grows

USA Today via AP: Fanned by another afternoon of high winds, the erratic wildfire threatening tourist areas of the southwestern Colorado mountains grew to 100 square miles on Saturday, and fire officials said they saw little hope for a break before Tuesday.

Still, they remained optimistic of saving the popular summer retreat of South Fork, and some 600 firefighters spent another day trying to keep the flames from moving in on the Wolf Creek Ski area and the historic mining town of Creede.

"I like our chances," fire operations chief Russ Long said when asked about the chances of protecting South Fork from one of three blazes in the so-called West Fork fire complex that were sparked last week by lighting in forests turned tinder by lingering drought and beetle infestations that have killed thousands of acres of spruce trees.

But he emphasized that firefighters were strictly in defensive mode, with no containment of the fire. The blaze's rapid advance on Friday prompted the evacuation of hundreds of summer visitors and the town's 400 permanent residents, and it could be days before people are allowed back into their homes, cabins and RV parks, fire crew officials said. South Fork Mayor Kenneth Brooke estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 people were forced to flee.

The fire's movement toward South Fork had slowed overnight Friday when winds dropped and the flames moved into a more healthy section of forest. But 30- to 40- mph winds returned Saturday afternoon, grounding aircraft and spreading the fast-moving flames to the north....

The outskirts of South Fork, Colorado, shot by Pmsyyz, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license

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