Fire scorches 35 acres in Teller County

June 8, 2011

Evacuation orders for residents of a subdivision west of Cripple Creek were expected to remain in place through Thursday afternoon after the Navajo fire quickly grew to 35 acres.

Fifteen agencies have responded the fire, with at least 50 firefighters fighting the blaze, roughly six miles west of Cripple Creek. A helicopter dropped water pulled from a nearby reservoir Wednesday, and a 5,000-gallon air tanker dropped retardant, said Sgt. Nick Olmsted of the Teller County Sheriff’s Office. “It made a huge dent in it,” Olmsted said, referring to the tanker.

All but one of Navajo Mountain Mesa subdivision’s 104 homes were evacuated. About 50 homes were threatened Wednesday afternoon, with the fire coming within 15 feet of one home. No structures have been damaged, Olmsted said.

Weather conditions made the fire dangerous, with winds gusting to 50 miles per hour and humidity at 12 percent, “which is optimal, unfortunately, for fire,” he said.

The Navajo fire was reported at 3:33 p.m. Wednesday – nine years to the day that the Hayman fire started northwest of Lake George. The Hayman fire burned 137,000 acres and destroyed 133 homes.

“People have learned from the Hayman fire that when we say it’s time to go, it’s time to go,” Olmsted said.

Vicki McDaniel reported the Navajo fire after noticing a puff of smoke near the subdivision, near Teller County Road 11. McDaniel is vice president of the board of directors of the Four-Mile Fire Protection District and was on her way to a board meeting.

She told the fire chief, who raced there and saw the grass on fire. A gust of wind blew the flames into the trees, and the fire took off, Olmsted said. A cause has not been determined.

“It just went very fast up the mountain,” McDaniel said, cradling her Yorkie, Tucker. “It looked like it was going to be bad.”

There was no containment of the fire late Wednesday.

“If it breaks over the hill, our house is the first that’s going to go,” said Dan Whitt, a resident. He said he managed to grab his three dogs, some medication and a few belongings before spending the night in his vehicle, along with his wife, a few miles from the fire.

Sheriff’s deputies were working with residents to find accommodations Wednesday night.

At least three other wildfires were burning in southeastern Colorado on Wednesday, including two at Fort Carson’s Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site.

The first Piñon Canyon fire, Callie Marie, has burned roughly 4,000 acres and was 7 percent contained late Wednesday.

The second, called the Bear Springs fire, has burned 26,000 acres in a sparsely populated area and is about 5 percent contained, Fort Carson says.

A fire near La Junta had reached an estimated 9,000 acres, or 14 square miles, and was 10 percent contained.

Three structures are threatened and were evacuated.

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