By Rick Sallinger

BEULAH, Colo. (CBS4)– A piece of equipment used by the Colorado Department of Transportation is the suspected cause of a large fire that destroyed eight homes in Beulah. Nearly 2,000 people had to evacuate their homes.

It is believed a spark from a track hoe may have triggered the fire. CDOT is taking responsibility and has given $5,000 to each of the homeowners whose houses were burned. The equipment was used to move rocks to prevent erosion along the St. Charles River.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

When the fire broke out the operator simultaneously called 911 and tried to put out the fire with dirt and rocks using his machine. The wind that day was 30-50 mph.

The blaze spread quickly in multiple directions and could not be contained. It burned nearly 5,000 acres since Monday.

PHOTO GALLERY: Beulah Hill Fire

The point of origin was near the track hoe according to Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor who added, “The only thing we could not eliminate by detectives and forensic analysis was the equipment.”

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Those who lost their homes have turned to the state for compensation.

CDOT spokesperson Amy Ford told CBS4’s Rick Sallinger, “This is one of those situations where we recognize it’s incredibly difficult and the fact that this is an accident is very tough on all of us especially the gentleman that was involved. “

After the Lower North Fork fire near Conifer in 2012 the laws have been changed to allow homeowners to sue the state for more money when it is the cause of an incident.

Wildfire Resources

– Visit’s Living With Wildfire section.

Wildfire Photo Galleries

– See images from the most destructive wildfires (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon, High Park and Fourmile) and largest wildfire (Hayman) in Colorado history.

CBS4’s Rick Sallinger is a Peabody award winning reporter who has been with the station more than two decades doing hard news and investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter @ricksallinger.

  1. Robert Gift, EMT says:

    Thank you, operator, for discovering the fire and trying to put it out while calling 9-1-1.
    Now we will have to station a water truck with fire hose at such high fire-risk locations.
    Once caught by wind, extinguishment is almost impossible.

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