Colorado’s South Fork fire has burned more than 70,000 acres as nearby town brace for a long evacuation. So far, the weather has kept fire crews from making progress in controlling the blaze.
The fire raged near a popular summer retreat, helped along by winds and dead trees in an area already facing a drought. The fire grew overnight to 108 square miles on Sunday. It was just 50 square miles on Friday night.
No structures were lost in the fire and no injuries have been reported so far. However, officials don’t think they will be able to establish containment lines until there is a break in the weather. Still, they remain confident that they will be able to protect the town.
Firefighters continued on Sunday to focus on protecting South Fork, the Wolf Creek ski area, and homes along Colorado’s Highway 149. The fire has been fueled by beetle-infested trees and is the worst ever known to hit the Rio Grande National Forest.
While firefighters battle to control the blaze, officials have said that they expect the blaze to burn all summer in more forested, non-residential areas. Full extinguishment of the fire will likely take months.
The blaze was started by lightning on June 5, but more than 1,500 people have been evacuated as it spread dangerously close to South Fork. Mike Duffy, who owns the South Fork Lodge, stated of the evacuation, “They just said they had no idea how long it would be before we could be back in South Fork.”
Duffy and his wife, Mary, gathered their personal possessions and fled the fast-moving wildfire. Officials initially worried the blaqze would overtake the popular tourist town. Thankfully that has not happened. While it is within three miles of South Fork, the fire has not yet threatened the town.
But a long-term evacuation could still impact the town, which depends on tourism to survive. Summer visitors usually include retirees from Texas and Oklahoma seeking cooler weather in the mountains.
While the South Fork fire remains uncontained, a wildfire 30 miles southwest of Denver was expected to come under full containment by Sunday evening.