COSTILLA COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) — The size of a wildland fire in Costilla County exploded overnight — from 4,000 acres on Thursday to nearly 24,000 acres on Friday — and continues to burn out of control.
The fire jumped CO 160 near Huerfano County Road, forcing the Colorado Department of Transportation to close the highway. The highway will remain closed due to poor visibility, heavy smoke and the fire’s proximity to the highway.
The fire moved into Huerfano County on Friday and the sheriff’s office ordered mandatory evacuations.
The Spring Fire broke out approximately five miles east of Fort Garland Wednesday evening and has now entered Huerfano County and continues moving east toward Highway 160 and the community of La Veta.
On Thursday, officials said there were 80 to 100 firefighters battling the blaze, along with fixed wing aircraft dropping fire retardant and helicopters making water drops.
Fire crews had to be pulled out because of the danger of the advancing flames at one point.
Dry conditions, rough terrain and strong winds gave the fire the upper hand.
On Friday, some South Metro Fire Rescue crews packed up and were leaving to assist the existing crews. They’re one of many departments across the state helping to try contain the massive fire. The Denver Fire Department has sent seven firefighters to help.
A Type II incident team was expected to arrive Friday provide more manpower and expertise.
Rocky Mountain Team Black assumed command of the Spring Fire at 6 a.m. on Friday.
“This incident command team provides an organizational structure well suited to manage large wildfires. Today firefighters will continue with protecting structures as well as values at risk while providing for firefighter and public safety,” officials stated.
The fire prompted evacuations in Forbes Park between Fort Garland and La Veta. About 2,500 people have been evacuated from the area.
Authorities say some structures have been burned by the wildfire but won’t confirm whether those structures are homes, outbuildings or businesses.
Evacuees were told they can stay at a Red Cross shelter at the Fort Garland and Blanca community center at 17591 E. Hwy 160 in Blanca.
Another shelter has been opened at Huerfano Community Center, 928 Russel Street in Walsenburg.
Another day of red flag conditions were forecasted for Friday. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 80’s with a relative humidity of 6-10%. Winds are expected to be out of the south and southwest with gusts up to 35. Cumulus buildup is likely to start around 10 am which can create gusty and erratic winds with little to no moisture. With today’s forecast being much like Thursday’s, erratic fire behavior similar to yesterday is expected.
Another day of red flag conditions were forecasted for Friday.
Temperatures were expected to be in the mid to high 80s with a relative humidity of 6-10 percent.
Winds were expected to be out of the south and southwest with gusts up to 35. Cumulus buildup is likely to start around 10 am which can create gusty and erratic winds with little to no moisture.
With Friday’s forecast being much like Thursday’s, erratic fire behavior was expected, officials stated.
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