BLACK FOREST, Colo. - Two people were killed as a wind-whipped
wildfire burned out of control for a third day Thursday, destroying 360
homes and forcing the evacuation of more than 38,000 people, authorities
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said one person who was
reported missing Wednesday was found safe, but crews on Thursday found
the remains of two others.
Authorities ordered residents of 1,000
homes in the nearby city of Colorado Springs to evacuate Thursday and
told residents of an additional 2,000 homes to be prepared to leave.
About 38,000 people outside the city already have been evacuated.
The number of lost homes was a dramatic increase from Wednesday evening, when 92 homes were listed as destroyed.
blaze in the Black Forest area northeast of Colorado Springs is now the
most destructive in Colorado history, surpassing last year's Waldo
Canyon Fire, which burned 347 home and killed two people, El Paso County
Sheriff Terry Maketa said.
of the homes that were previously listed as standing were destroyed as
high winds pushed the 23-square-mile wildfire back into areas that had
already burned, Maketa said. Deputies still have not been able to verify
the condition of 79 other homes, so the losses could rise, he said.
Black Forest resident Michael Miller, who evacuated Tuesday night,
said he hopes to go home soon and check on the dogs he had to leave
"Five hundred yards from my house, the flames were
probably 20 feet above the trees," Miller said. "I know they're not
letting any people back in there."
Dee Ozburn owns a campground in
nearby Falcon that was busy with families fleeing the fire. "I am
overfilled now with evacuees," she said. "We're putting people in our
field and everywhere else, and right now, I am overwhelmed."
Deanna Ronco, 40, of Black Forest, learned Wednesday night that the home her family evacuated a day earlier had been destroyed.
sad part is it's not even over,'' she said. "My kids were at friends',
but my husband and I, we got a hotel room last night because we needed
time to ourselves to grieve the life we built for ourselves these last
Black Forest, named for its thick growth of Ponderosa Pines, is about
20 miles from Colorado Springs, the state's second-largest city.
O'Neill, who lives on the edge of the forest, said she was surprised to
receive the evacuation order. She cleared out, with her pets, at 11:30
"We have a number of dogs, so just checking into a motel wasn't an option,'' she said. "We ended up at a friend's house.''
Mersman, an executive at Keller Homes in the Briargate section of
Colorado Springs, said he was following fire updates in his office a few
miles from the fire. He said residents are staying alert in case the
fire comes closer.
"Everybody's just highly concerned, and it's
just a very unknown situation," Mersman said. "There's a lot of smoke in
the air, and the situation is just completely uncontained."
officials evacuated part of neighboring Elbert County, including two
camps with about 1,250 children and adults. Bits of ash and the smell of
smoke drifted into Denver, about 60 miles to the north, where the haze
blocked the sun.
"People are scared, for sure,'' said Sharon Robertson, 42. "Everyone's worried that it's going to be like last year. It's sad.''
Timpson, 60, of Briargate, said she and her family have closed up their
house to keep the smoke out. They're listening for pre-evacuation
orders in case they need to start packing, she said.
Waldo Canyon Fire last year, we're just very frustrated and nervous that
we're going through this again a year later," Timpson said.
More than half of the state remained under high fire danger, according to a report from the National Weather Service in Denver.
to southwest winds will develop this afternoon, with gusts in the 20-
to 30-mph range," the weather service forecast in an online bulletin.
"This will create very high fire danger again, especially in areas south
and southwest of Denver. The south winds will likely bring smoke from
the Black Forest Fire towards Denver again this afternoon."
was shaping up to be slightly cooler than Wednesday, the weather
service said, with highs around 90 degrees. Friday will be another hot,
dry day in Colorado, but cooler weather is expected over the weekend,
which will feature a chance of thunderstorms and temperatures in the
Two other fires were raging in Colorado:
wildfire in the south had burned 3,100 acres and destroyed 20
structures, including some in Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. The blaze,
about 20% contained, prompted evacuations of about 250 residents and
nearly 1,000 inmates at a medium-security prison.
• Another fire
burning on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park was estimated
at 600 acres late Wednesday, an increase of 200 acres from the morning
press briefing. At the time of the update, no containment had been
established and no structures were threatened.
reports for KUSA-TV in Denver. Contributing: Lauren Kirkwood, Steph
Solis, Michael Auslen and William M. Welch, USA TODAY; Trevor Hughes,
The Coloradoan in Fort Collins; Associated Press