SALIDA, Colo. (AP) — A wildfire has destroyed at least one home and charred more than 5,800 acres in central Colorado. More than 450 firefighters and several aircraft have been assigned to the fire, which is burning in rough terrain south of Salida. The fire, which is 5% contained, has forced the evacuation of about 130 homes.
Firefighters dealt with near-critical fire conditions on Friday, and red flag warnings have been issued for Saturday. It is considered the No. 1 firefighting priority in the country.
Unseasonably warm and dry conditions have fueled the fire, which has been burning in the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area since Sept. 8. It had been allowed to burn beetle-killed trees until high winds this week spread flames north toward Salida.
Evacuees were told Friday they wouldn’t be allowed back in their homes until at least the weekend and maybe even longer depending on what the winds.
“These things happen and people come through,” McKenna told CBS4 Friday as he unloaded some of his prize possessions, including his skis and boots into a friend’s garage.
When he isn’t fleeing his home from a wildfire, Chuck McKenna serves as the principal at Salida Elementary school.
“It might seem funny but we live near a ski resort so we saved our skis my daughter is in Denver and her great line was, ‘did you get my skis and boots out?’ We said sure, we will make sure we got that,” he chuckled.
McKenna and hundreds of his neighbors on Methodist Mountain, south of Salida, are now evacuees.
“We came outside and there were a lot of sheriff’s department people, their lights flashing, they said get out now,” he said.
In neighboring Fremont County, officials are telling hundreds of more people in the small towns of Howard and nearby communities to be prepared to evacuate as winds are expected to push the fire into Bighorn Sheep Canyon.
Finding a place to call temporary home during this evacuation wasn’t hard, all of the people who registered at the Red Cross emergency station had a place to stay as of Friday.
“Within two or three hours we had four places that were offered. I had a call from the local real estate people and they were like if there’s anybody you know that needs a place to go all of the VRBO places are available for free,” said McKenna. “The community reached out and we had all of these options all of a sudden it was overwhelming and emotional.”
There will be a public meeting about the fire on Saturday, Oct. 5 at 10 a.m. at 220 W. Sackett Ave. in Salida.
– Visit CBSDenver.com’s Colorado Wildfire section.
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(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)