SALIDA, Colo. (CBS4) – The Hayden Pass Fire near Salida has burned 12,000 acres. It’s so large the smoke is visible from space.

Astronaut Jeff Williams tweeted out pictures of the fire from the International Space Station.

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The Hayden Pass Fire as seen from space (credit: @AstroJeff)

The Hayden Pass Fire as seen from space (credit: @AstroJeff)

The fire has doubled in size twice — most dramatically on Sunday. In a matter of an hour it exploded sending several backcountry users who were caught off-guard literally running to escape the flames.

Hiker Bryan Joslin described the conditions just a few hours before the fire exploded.

“It was gorgeous, beautiful, complete blue sky, not a cloud in the sky,” Joslin said. “If we had seen smoke we would have never started a six-mile journey up to Bushnell Lakes.”

Joslin and another hiker reached the top of the trail and snapped photos showing no smoke, but then in a matter of minutes the perfect day turned into anything but perfect.

Blue skies just before the fire exploded (credit: Bryan Joslin)

Blue skies just before the fire exploded (credit: Bryan Joslin)

“Literally it had gone from blue sky just to this huge plume exploding out of nowhere,” he said.

Trapped as fire and smoke spread, Joslin knew they needed to get out. He was able to take a photo as they started back down the trail. The only way out was covered in smoke.

(credit: Bryan Joslin)

(credit: Bryan Joslin)

(credit: Bryan Joslin)

(credit: Bryan Joslin)

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“We started picking up the pace and eventually … turned into a run — smoke started really kind of coming from all different directions,” Joslin said. “You couldn’t really tell exactly what was going on. It started getting kind of that orange haze.”

At the trailhead they linked with a Forest Service fire crew who escorted them out. Evacuations already had been completed. Looking back on his close call Joslin is just happy they were able to escape.

“Very lucky, very lucky.”

Bryan Joslin is interviewed by CBS4's Matt Kroschel)

Bryan Joslin is interviewed by CBS4’s Matt Kroschel)

Fire managers say the fire was started by a lightning strike in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness on Friday, but crews weren’t able to pinpoint its location over the weekend. It flared up Sunday and quickly grew in dead trees and dry, windy weather. The fire grew only about 100 acres on Tuesday.

More resources are on the way.

Hayden Pass Fire mapWildfire Resources

– Visit’s Living With Wildfire section.

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