The Spring Fire, that was sparked Wednesday nine miles north of Fort Garland and southeast of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado, has scorched 60 square miles and was zero percent contained on Saturday afternoon, according to The Weather Channel. It grew from 33,000 acres on Friday to over 38,000 acres on Saturday. From just north of Fort Garland, the Spring Fire spread to Huerfano County and is now moving eastward toward U.S. 160 and La Veta.
Highway 160 is now closed at La Veta Pass, and officials say they aren’t able to estimate when it will be reopened. They have also closed Highway 12 in the Cuchara Valley because of mandatory evacuations in that area. Dry, hot, and windy conditions are providing ideal weather conditions for the fire to continue, but meteorologists predict that will change in the near future as wind speeds decrease.
Saturday did bring some good news about the Spring Fire, however, with the arrest of 52-year-old Jesper Jorgenson on arson charges related to the blaze. The Spring Fire has forced the evacuation of 350 homes in Costilla and Huerfano counties, and caused the destruction of an unknown number of structures in southern Colorado. Officials say Jorgenson was arrested Thursday and is currently being held in the Costilla County Jail, according to Fox 31 Denver. The sheriff’s office explained that they wouldn’t be providing additional information at this time because the investigation is ongoing.
Huerfano County Emergency Management advises that shelters are available at two community centers: the Huerfano County Community Center in Walsenburg and the Community Center in Trinidad. Animals have not been forgotten and can be sheltered at the La Veta 4-H Barn or the Las Animas County Fairgrounds in Trinidad. A disaster assistance center is also being created to help residents affected by the fire.
In anticipation of the Spring Fire spreading in coming days, early evacuation orders have been issued for La Veta and Cuchara, and Trincherad, Colorado, as well as for the area south of U.S. 160 in Fort Garland.
On Saturday, crews focused on protecting structures believed to be at risk of damage from the Spring Fire and were using bull dozers and hand crews to build a fire line. With a forecasted shift of winds to an easterly direction, the Pueblo Chieftain reports that crews will try to leverage that wind for a firing operation off the bulldozer line and fire retardant line on the east side of the fire Friday. Crews are finding the southeastern side of the fire, in the San Isabel National Forest, more challenging because of the large amounts of deadwood and the challenging terrain.
A current list of evacuations in Huerfano County is available on the Huerfano County Facebook page. Information on evacuations in Costilla County is available at the San Luis Valley Emergency page at slvemergency.org.