COSTILLA COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Officials in Costilla County say they arrested one man, identified as Jesper Joergensen, on arson charges for the Spring Fire.
The Spring Fire grew to more than 38,000 acres. Late Saturday afternoon, InciWeb officials announced the Pike San Isabel National Forest is now closed.
Officials say hot temperatures, wind and dry conditions fueled the fire on Friday. Crews worked on the east side of the fire near La Veta Pass to build a fire line with the help of air tankers and helicopters.
New mandatory evacuations were issued Saturday afternoon for Navajo Ranch, Majors Ranch and residences along County Road 530 and south to Hwy 160. This includes Vega Road near Navajo. Navajor and Pinion Hills are not under mandatory evacuations.
The Cuchara Valley area was evacuated Friday after the fire crossed Highway 160. That highway and Highway 12 are closed with no estimated time of reopening.
The evacuation place for all evacuees will be Walsenburg Community Center.
CBS4’s Melissa Garcia spoke with one family who lost their historic summer home in La Veta.
“Complete annihilation. Just total devastation beyond anything I thought there would be,” Matt Booth described the rubble. “It’s a place we’d visit since I was 12 years old. And I’m 46 now. I have three boys,” he said of the historic family home.
The forest house holding decades of memories is now a single brick wall surrounded by bare, blackened trees.
“Before it was all wooded and when you looked around, you could see the forest. Now you can just look through as far as you can see because there’s nothing left,” Booth said.
A bird’s eye view from Copter4 shows the Booth home is far from the only one lost to a fire that investigators believe was intentionally set.
Booth said the loss hit hard with his father, who purchased the home and spent many summers there with family.
“Digging through a foundation of ash, it was horrible to watch your parent do that. It’s almost like a death in the family. So I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the other people on the road where that was their primary residence. They lost everything.”
Officials held a community meeting at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Firefighters say the southeaster side of the fire will be difficult because of steep, rocky terrain and large amounts of dead timber.
The sheriff’s office say they hope to know more about any lost structures in the next several days.
While temperatures are slightly cooler Saturday, officials are concerned about strong, erratic wind speeds.
The fire burning east of Fort Garland is not contained.
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