Three wildfires in Colorado continued to burn out of control on Wednesday, forcing several thousand residents from Colorado Springs, Royal Gorge, and elsewhere to evacuate.
A wildfire near Colorado Springs prompted more than 7,000 residents to flee as it burned through 92 homes and damaged five more. The Royal Gorge fire also claimed at least 20 structures and cause 250 residents to evacuate.
Along with Colorado, wildfires were also burning in New Mexico, Oregon, and California. A smokejumper was killed in California while fighting one of several fires started by lightning.
The US Forest Service announced on Wednesday that it was mobilizing two Defense Department cargo planes to combat the fires because of how busy crew in the region are. That step can only be taken when all of the contracted tankers for the Forest Service are already in use.
The Colorado Springs fire broke out on Tuesday along the state’s Front Range. Officials have issued orders and pre-evacuation notices to more than 9,000 people, along with 3,500 homes and businesses. Flying embers were helping the fire spread into Colorado Springs, causing residents to prepare for evacuation.
Bits of ash and the smell of wildfire smoke also drifted into Colorado’s capital of Denver, about 60 miles north of the blaze. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa stated that no injuries or deaths have been reported, though one person was missing on Wednesday.
Officials are trying to confirm the person’s whereabouts and firefighters attempted to reach their last known location. They were turned back when the region was too hot. Maketa added that he was worried people could choose to ignore evacuation orders, explaining,”One of my fears is that people took their chances and it may have cost them their life.”
The Colorado Springs wildfire is close to last summer’s Waldo Canyon Fire, which killed two people and destroyed 346 homes. Residents who lost their homes last year packed up quickly, not wanting to take their chances.
A third wildfire was also burning near Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park, though there were no reports of damage to structures or evacuations.