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Deputies pursue arsonist for fires near Divide

June 18, 2012
photo - A helicopter fights the Springer Fire in the Elevenmile Canyon area near Lake George, Colo., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The fire had grown to 1,100 acres as of Tuesday morning.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)  Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE
A helicopter fights the Springer Fire in the Elevenmile Canyon area near Lake George, Colo., Tuesday, June 19, 2012. The fire had grown to 1,100 acres as of Tuesday morning. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) Photo by CHRISTIAN MURDOCK, THE GAZETTE 

Here's a roundup from the Springer fire, which continues to burn west of Colorado Springs:

7 p.m. Wednesday: Teller County Sheriff Mike Ensminger said nine fires have been set in Teller County since Monday -- with seven of them set in less than two hours on Wednesday.

He said all the fires were called in by residents who worked to put them out before firefighters arrived. All told, the fire burned about a quarter of an acre.

But deputies are anxious to catch whoever is lighting the fires in such dangerous conditions.

"Today there seemed to be somewhat of a pattern," Ensminger said Wednesday evening. "We were bouncing back and forth to these fires minutes from each other."

The fires have been set on Cedar Mountain and Twin Rocks roads, in Aspen Village and Rosewood Hills, he said. There has been no property damage or injuries.

Ensminger asked anyone who sees suspicious activity to call 911.

5:30 p.m.: While hundreds of crews attempt containment of the Springer fire, the Teller County Sheriff's Office has spent much of Wednesday chasing after an arsonist near Divide.

Several small, but quickly extinguished, fires were set around Divide, sheriff's officials said.

It is not clear if they have caught the arsonist, but the sheriff plans to hold a briefing about the day's chase at 6:30 p.m. at his office off Highway 24.

The arsonist is not believed to be connected to the Springer fire, officials said.

4 p.m. Briefing: Two heavy air tankers at the Springer fire were grounded Wednesday afternoon after meteors struck the planes, according to fire officials.

Greg Heule, the fire information officer, received calls at 3 p.m. asking what was falling out of the sky. The two tankers were flying in the area when unknown debris struck them, forcing them to land and remain grounded for almost two hours, Heule said.

"I expect what happened is some of them got dinged pretty good," Heule said of the air tankers. 

Officials were not sure of the origin of the mysterious debris but suspect it was a meteor shower, Heule said.

The meteors weren't the only change in weather in Lake George Wednesday. Humidity levels went up but so did the winds, pushing the smoke in a northward-sweeping circle, swirling around Lake George, Heule said.

Nonetheless, the northeast line of the fire is completely contained, Heule said. The fire continues to push southeast towards the South Platte River, trying to jump over, but firefighters have held it back, Heule said.

A new feature on the infrared map from Tuesday night shows a mine shaft on the fire's southern rim. Such hazards prevent crews from working on the fire at night. Instead, engines will circle the blaze and monitor it throughout the night, Heule said. 

Thursday weather could prove worrisome, with the return of dry heat. 

"We still have potential that this could spread in any direction," Heule said.

10:55 a.m.: Latest Springer fire stats:

- 1,145 acres with 23 percent containment

- 399 firefighters at last count, but more are expected to trickle in Wednesday

- Cost to fight the fire (through Tuesday): $1.7 million

Notable: The semi trailer with showers that were initially expected to arrive Tuesday didn't get here. Officials said it will be in Lake George about noon to bring firefighters much needed relief.

10:30 a.m.: Officials continually stress three factors that dictate level of fire danger - topography, weather and fuels.

The topography in Elevenmile Canyon is steep, which not only can lead to fire running uphill when the wind gusts, but make it tough for firefighters to establish containment.

The fuels are "really, really dry" spokesman Greg Heule said.

Live fuels in the area are at 85 to 90 percent fuel moisture, a level that is "very low" compared to the typical 110 to 115 percent range that is normal for forests in Park and Teller counties, Heule said.

Ground fuels are obviously dry, that becomes obvious with a quick walk around land near Lake George. Grasses crunch with every step and fallen branches crumble when stepped on.

As for weather, conditions are predicted to be mostly favorable Wednesday in the fire area. And given the terrain and fuels this is the area officials are focusing on.

"A lot is going to depend on the weather," said Rob Hicks, a Colorado Springs firefighter working at Springer.

Hicks said crews are "cautiously optimistic" given expected highs in the mid 70s and calmer winds. Gusts are only expected to be around 12 mph. Highs had been in the 80s with winds hitting 20 mph Monday and Tuesday as the blaze grew to more than 1,000 acres.

Humidity levels were also expected to be higher Wednesday with 20 percent possible in some areas over the blaze.

"The conditions are better, but they're still horrible," Hicks said.

The cooler conditions were prompted by a cold front that fire meteorologists said is sitting over the fire. The front can bring danger as well, Heule said. He said the result can be unpredictable winds that can send embers and flames in any direction.

9:20 a.m.: Springer fire officials will hold a community information meeting in Lake George at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The meeting will be at the fire station on Park County Road 90 just off U.S. Highway 24.


9 a.m: A man from Seattle, Wash. sent The Gazette's Matt Steiner an email just before 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. His son is one of the firefighters at Lake George on the Springer fire.

Howard Coleman has been talking with his son and sounds pretty optimistic about the crews taming the blaze. The weather can change quickly, however, and push the fire in unpredictable, dangerous directions. Tuesday morning reports had the fire growing from 1,100 acres Tuesday to 1,145 Wednesday morning. Firefighters have achieved 23 percent containment.

Here is an excerpt from Howard Coleman's email:

"My son and his 20 firefighter unit from Tonasket Washington were just finishing the Arkansas fire outside Lake George when they got the call on this one Monday. They were at the fire by 1:30 or 2 and had dug almost a mile of line by dusk. They were in the Z area on the northwest side of the fire yesterday. He said the fire came very close to houses up there, but they held it.

Looks like they’ll have it pretty much whipped today. Lots of lucky homeowners around Lake George!"


8:50 a.m.: Firefighters were warned Wednesday morning of the possibility of "plume dominated" fire conditions.

The morning's incident action plan highlighted a Haines Index "5," indicating a high potential of large plumes of fire that could collapse and send streams of air pushing the fire in several, unpredictable directions.

The National Weather Service describes the Haines Index as "a fire weather index based on the stability and moisture content of the lower atmosphere that measures the potential for existing fires to become large fires." Only a rating of "6," which the Springer fire had Tuesday, would mean more dangerous conditions.


8:30 a.m.: One of the biggest worries for those battling the Springer fire in Elevenmile Canyon south of Lake George is the threat of the fire jumping.

Wildfires can throw embers and arcs of flames up to several hundred yards. Springer is situated on the north side of the South Platte River in the canyon and has already been tossing spotfires across the water to the steep slopes on the other side.

Five spotfires were put out Tuesday on the south slope of the canyon, but officials warned firefighters at the morning meeting to heighten their awareness when patrolling that area.

The fear is that some small spotfires have been missed in that terrain, which has several "shoots" running up the slope, fire spokesman Greg Heule said. Heule described the shoots as trenches several yards long that could act as channels for flames to run up the hill quickly. At the top of that ridge is the edge of the Wagon Tongue subdivision, which has already been evacuated.

Officials said at the meeting that a helicopter, equipped with thermal imaging, would be circling the south slope of the canyon Wednesday to identify spotfires that have flared up in hidden areas unnoticeable to those walking the fire line.


6:50 a.m.: Officials tell Matt Steiner that an infrared flyover just before 10 p.m. Tuesday showed the fire is now at 1,145 acres. Matt is on scene and will have more updates throughout the morning.


6:00 a.m.: Conditions are expected to be significantly cooler and calmer Wednesday at the Springer fire.

After temperatures in the 80s in Lake George on Monday and Tuesday, the National Weather Service expects highs for the area to stay in the low 70s Wednesday.

Winds should also be more tame as predictions have gusts topping out around 17 mph, which means firefighters should be able to gain ground on the current 23 percent containment.

According to officials Tuesday night, the fire remained at 1,100 acres.

The Gazette will have updates after the 7 a.m. firefighter meeting.


9:30 p.m., Tuesday: As dusk fell, a line of brush trucks and fire equipment pulled into the Lake George community camp area, just north of Lake George.

A long line of weary firefighters snaked out of the dining tent. Several trucks parked in rows below the firefighters' tents. The whole camp area was lit, as people walked to the port-a-potties and unloaded trucks.

Firefighters sat down to a hot meal and then it was off to rest so they could return to the fireline early Wednesday. The terrain in the burn area is too dangerous to keep firefighters at the scene in the dark, officials said.

A park county deputy parked her car in front of the lake george general store, across the street from an electic sign that read: "go slow fire equipment on the road."

The operation was bedding down for the night, and the last of the equipment arrived as the sun set over the hills.


7 p.m.:  Officials report the Springer fire is 23 percent contained.

Officials are updating residents at a meeting in Woodland Park that just got under way. About 100 people are in attendance to hear from various emergency agencies about the fire, evacuations and the like.


4:30 p.m.:  The Springer fire remained at 10 percent containment Tuesday afternoon, but firefighters took advantage of calm weather and dug an 18-inch fireline along all of the fire's northern border, said fire information officer Greg Heule.

Heule, who recently retired from the Colorado Springs Fire Department after 26 years, said the line runs from the fire's northwest corner to north of the Platte River. The line is a necessary step, but not fool-proof, Heule said.

"Just because we have line there doesn't mean that we have containment," he said

Fire investigators have not confirmed the rumors of the fire's start, which was reported by area residents after they heard a few gunshots and an explosion Sunday.

Mandatory evacuations have not been lifted, although there were a few residents in that zone who refused to leave, Heule said.

"If they choose to stay, they choose to stay," Heule said.

A light-colored column of smoke trailed up from the hills behind Lake George, indicating that there isn't much burning in the hills, Heule said. But what is burning is burning hot, he added -- a column is usually indicative of a particularly toasty burn. The fire was raging through dry logs covering the ground, reducing them to piles of white ash.

Colorado Springs firefighters have joined other local crews as well as crews from as far away as Boise, Idaho. Lt. Brad Starling arrived to help with the communications team, along with a task force leader and an engine from Colorado Springs, Heule said.

The firefighters have a camp set up on the north side of the Highway 24 across from Lake George. They have pitched their tents in clusters near the portable showers and the impromptu cafeteria where they eat their meals. Breakfast is served at 6:30 a.m., and dinner around 8:30 p.m., or whenever they return from the front lines, Heule said.

He expected crews to march into camp Tuesday night ready to heap mountains of food on their plates, and then head for bed. Showers, after three days of hard firefighting, would probably be last on their list of concerns, Heule joked.

A community meeting for all area residents will be at 7 p.m. at Woodland Park High School and the incident commanders and county sheriffs will be on hand to field questions.


2 p.m.: With the exception of the humidity, the weather in Lake George is doing just what Springer fire officials hoped.

The temperature is cool at 73 degrees, much lower than the National Weather Service's predicted high of 84.

Winds are 5 mph out of the southwest. As long as winds remain calm, firefighter can keep the spreading of the fire to a minimum.

The humidity, at only 8 percent, is lower than predicted. At Tuesday's morning meeting the Forest Service meteorologist expected humidity levels in the double digits.


1:30 p.m.: The Protection of the Holy Virgin Monastery, part of the Orthodox Church, which is northeast of Lake George, also evacuated because of the Springer fire.

Archbishop Benjamin Peterson said the monastery is home to one full-time nun, Cassiana Petrow, and occasionally houses a few other nuns. So far, the grounds of the monastery have not been touched by the fire and Petrow is staying with friends in Colorado Springs, he said.

The monastery, built in 1993, includes a chapel, refectory, guest house and home for the nuns. The monastery also was evacuated during the 2002 Hayman Fire.


12:15 p.m.: At least one air tanker was flying over the Springer fire just before noon Tuesday.

The Forest Service has two tankers available to drop retardant on the fire, last reported to be 1,100 acres in Elevenmile Canyon south of Lake George.

The tankers must fly to their base in Jefferson County to refill.

"They can't land without dumping their load," fire spokesman Greg Heule said.

When asked why they didn't use Peterson Air Force Base or a closer location, Heule said the Air Force bases in Colorado Springs don't have the proper refilling equipment.

"It doesn't take long for them to get back (to Jefferson County)," Heule said.


10 a.m.: There will be a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Woodland Park High School for evacuees, residents and anyone looking for Springer fire updates.


9:45 a.m.: Gazette reporter Matt Steiner is at the fire and keeping an eye on the weather. He says the breeze is gentle and that the temperature is starting to rise. Weather will be a critical factor for firefighters as they try to gain on the 10 percent containment.


9:10 a.m.: Officials say the fire containment is at 10 percent. All road closures and evacuations remain in effect. Two air tankers based out of Jefferson County are available if needed. At this point, no structures have burned.


8:40 a.m.: A new map of the fire area has been released.

Crews have two medium-sized helicopters with buckets available Tuesday for dumping water on the fire. A large, Kamax helicopter and one small helicopter are also available with buckets.


8:30 a.m.: Growth Monday in the Springer fire has prompted officials to reclassify the incident from a Type 3 to the more complex Type 2 label.

Fire spokesman Greg Heule said factors such as weather, type of terrain and need for additional crews played a role in the classification change.

Along with the increased complexity came the need for a more elaborate camp to house crews that have come from as far away as Idaho and South Dakota.

Firefighters moved Monday from the Lake George fire station to the rodeo grounds just west of the town's community park.

A caterer was brought in to provide the required 5,500 calories consumed by each firefighter every day. A contractor has supplied potable water and Heule said semi trailers with showers were to arrive Tuesday.

Heule said there were already almost 400 firefighters in camp with more expected to arrive by Tuesday night.


8:15 a.m.: With the number of firefighters increasing from 150 to more than 320 Monday in Lake George, Tuesday's morning briefing was more of a "longing," as one official said 40 minutes into the meeting.

Multiple times crews who worked Monday were applauded during the Springer fire command meeting.

Firefighters took advantage of light winds to establish a fire line along the entire north edge of the 1,100 acre blaze. The fire has no containment.

Much of the meeting centered on safety and fire behavior.

Tuesday's action plan outlined hazards such as tree torching that can send embers into the air and create spot fires up to a half mile away in predicted 25 mph wind gusts.

Heat and hydration were the focus of safety tips for the firefighters. Temperatures pushing into the mid to high 80s combined with little shade in the burn area near Elevenmile Canyon have officials concerned.

Work shifts for most firefighters are scheduled to go through 8 p.m.

Officials hope winds will stay minimal and allow crews to keep the fire from jumping the South Platte River to the south of the fire. Once over the river, the blaze would have an easy uphill climb and threaten homes in the Wagon Tongue area.


8 a.m.: Several nonprofit organizations in the Pikes Peak region are asking for help with the impacts of recent wildfires.

The Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross is seeking monetary donations to help with the cost of running a shelter in Woodland Park. Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado is seeking non-perishable food donations to help stock its shelves.

Read more about how you can help:


7:30 a.m.: RECAP: Monday, the estimated size of the Springer fire grew from 450 acres to 970 acres after more accurate mapping. Tuesday morning officials said it has grown to 1,100 acres.

Investigators are investigating the cause of the fire. Gazette reporter Matt Steiner spoke with the manager of Indian Paint Brush Ranch, who said she and others heard gunshots and an explosion while out horseback riding.


6:45 a.m.: Officials tell Gazette reporter Matt Steiner that the Springer fire has grown to 1,100 acres from the last report of 970 acres.


6 a.m.: The possibility for dangerous fire conditions looms again Tuesday for Lake George and the Springer fire.

The National Weather Service has issued another red flag warning for the area as highs are forecast near 90 degrees in the mountain town and winds could gust near 30 mph.

The warning begins at 10 a.m. Tuesday and runs until 9 p.m.

As the fire grew to just under 1,000 acres Monday the number of firefighters at the blaze increased to more than 300 battling the flames. A camp sprouted just west of town, with RVs and tents spread against the hills along U.S. Highway 24.

Fire officials scheduled a 7 a.m. briefing before firefighters head back to Elevenmile Canyon armed with shovels and axes. The crews aim to establish more fire lines Tuesday in hopes of keeping the fire from jumping the South Platte River  and threatening homes.

The blaze was still at zero containment Monday night.



8:30 p.m. Monday: More than 50 people packed a meeting room at Woodland Park High School Monday night to learn the fate of homes and land in the path of the 970-acre Springer fire.

The meeting, held by local officials, offered residents an update on the fire and good news after two days of worry. Officials told residents that efforts to control the blaze were going well and credited calmer winds with allowing firefighters to get an upper hand. They’re hoping for calm winds Tuesday as well.

Read more about Monday night's meeting:


4:50 p.m.: A small, new fire near the Elevenmile Canyon area is almost out, fire officials said at a briefing Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Springer fire has consumed 970 acres and is 0 percent contained.

The small, unnamed fire was not a threat to the Springer fire, officials said. The second fire burned about  1/10th of an acre.

The Springer fire has not been as active today as expected, thanks to winds that didn't reach forecasted strengths, fire officials said.

The cause of the Springer fire is under investigation. No structures have been lost.

Refresh this page for updates.

The next media briefing will be at 8 p.m. Monday.


1:42 p.m.: The Springer fire is now 970 acres and 0 percent contained, fire officials said.


1:30 p.m.: Several nonprofit organizations in the Pikes Peak region are asking for help with  the Colorado wildfires.

The Pikes Peak Chapter of the American Red Cross is seeking monetary donations to help with the cost of running a shelter in Woodland Park. Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado is seeking non-perishable food donations to help stock its shelves.

For more info on how you can help, check out this story by Jakob Rodgers.


1:15 p.m.: Terry and Terri VanKeuren arrived last week to check on their cabin and Terri's late father's cabin in the Arkansas fire. While they call Castle Rock home, they have been here making sure the cabins in Sportsman's Paradise are OK.

Terri said the smoke looks a lot better than last night. Standing outside Lake George Cafe and Pizzeria around noon on Monday, she said that last night in the same place smoke was billowing up over the lake and that it looked like "big old storm clouds."

Last night the couple went to their cabin to see what they could do.

"We gathered everything of value and put it in the middle of the floor," Terry said.

The VanKeurens got to the Lake George Charter School at 6:30 a.m. and were led to the cabin where they had 30 minutes to get everything they wanted.

"It was eerie," Terri VanKeuren said. She said the sun wasn't visible because of the smoke.

"This is so much better," she said of the fire on Monday.

"I feel OK, I mean I am scared" Terri VanKeuren said. "I didn't sleep at all last night. It's very weird that it [Hayman's fire] was ten years ago."

Terry VanKeuren said that he thinks fires will begin being more usual.

"Over the last 10 years, it's gotten so much worse with the beetle kill. It's going to be more commonplace here."

The couple's plan is to hang out now and see what happens.


12:30 p.m.: Helicopters and a pair of air tankers have been dousing the Springer fire since just before 11:30 a.m.

While the helicopters dipped into Lake George four times before 12:30 p.m., two tankers were loaned to the forest service by Canada and began flights south of Lake George around noon.

The pair of tankers were brought in after four that were on scene early Monday were diverted to the High Park fire in Larimer County.

The air assault aimes to "assist ground crews," fire spokesman Greg Heule said, adding, "it's the ground crews that put the fire out."


11:45 a.m.:  Four air tankers were headed to the Springer fire, but have been diverted to the High Park fire. Two single-engine tankers have been assigned to the fire near Lake George and officials have ordered two more.

There were 250 firefighters on the ground Monday morning and 400 are expected by  evening. The size of the fire is still about 450 acres. No information about containment is available at this time.

"The folks out in the field are working hard at it," Heule said.

The command post is moving to the Lake George Charter School to allow the Lake George Fire Post to continue with their work and get more space. Currently the fire is a "type 3 incident" and it will become 'type 2" later Monday or Tuesday morning.


11:30 a.m: Fire officials are investigating the cause of the Springer fire.

The manager at the Indian Paint Brush Ranch, who did not want her name used, said detectives were on the ranch property just before 11 a.m. Monday.

The manager told The Gazette that she and 10 others were horseback riding Sunday when they heard gunshots and an explosion, then immediately saw flames rise from some brush.

The group immediately rode back to the ranch stables and called 911, she said. The manager said a few of the riders reported seeing a truck with two men leaving the area about 30 seconds after the flames ignited.

When asked if those flames spread and turned into the Springer blaze, the manager said, "Oh, yes, definitely."

Greg Heule, a fire spokesman, would not confirm the fire's cause Monday morning. He said they were treating them as "just rumors" until the investigation was complete.


10:45 a.m.: A waitress at the Lake George Cafe and Pizzeria was still cruising around the busy restaurant just after 10 a.m. Monday despite arriving at work at 3 a.m. to make meals for Springer fire firefighters.

Glad, who said she is known on a first-name basis, said she has heard some rumors about the cause of the fire but didn't want to share them because "I don't know what the truth is."

While crews fight the Springer fire, the High Park fire continues to burn, setting a record for destruction.


9:58 a.m.: Springer fire spokesman Greg Heule said officials had to warn some people, including one television news crew, not to go into areas closed for the fire.

Heule said doing so is against Colorado law.


9:38 a.m.: Update from Florissant Fire Protection District Facebook Page:

Springer Fire: Fire size 400 acres. Fire is being held at Elevenmile Canyon. Crews will be working the east side of the canyon. Standby evacuations still in effect for Sanborn Ranch, Wilson Lakes Estates, Forest Glenn Sports Association, Blue Mountain Estates. The Mandatory evacuations have been downgraded to Standby evacuations. NOTICE OF ADVISORY: Residents in West Florissant Heights, Indian Creek, Valley High Subdivisions and areas west of Wildhorn Rd and CR 31 need to prepare for possible Pre-Evacuation notice. Winds are moving SW to NE at this time. Primary evacuation shelter is Summit Elementary in Divide. Secondary evacuation shelter is at the Woodland Park High School.


9:30 a.m.: The Park County Office of Emergency Management has set up a hotline for Springer fire evacuees and those interested in helping out.

Brian Foltz, with the office, said people can call 866-760-6489 with questions or to volunteer with fire efforts.

"Don't call 911," Foltz insisted. "unless it's a direct threat to life and property."

The hotline is directly linked to Park County emergency officials.


9:15 a.m.: Firefighters at the Springer fire south of Lake George are hoping predictions of windy, hot weather Monday are wrong.

Greg Heule, a spokesman for the firefighting effort, stressed that temperatures in the 80s and expected gusts of up to 30 mph could be disastrous for the already extremely dry conditions.

"Some of the heavy fuels on the ground out there are burning to white ash," Heule said, trying to illustrate how hot and fast the blaze is burning.

"Lake George is getting picked on," said one resident attending the media briefing.

Winds will come mainly out of the southwest, Heule said, force the fire to the northwest.

Officials did not know if the fire had gown. Heule said crews were not able to make "infrared flights" Sunday night to map the fire.

"That is our most accurate method," he said, noting that the blaze is still zero percent contained.

Last report had Springer covering 450 acres near Elevenmile Canyon.

Rumors had been flying about the cause of the fire, but Huele said that is still under investigation. He dismissed the claims saying, "as far as we're concerned they're just rumors."

There were 250 firefighters at the blaze Monday morning. Huele said that number is expected to increase to 400 by evening. Two helicopters and four air tankers will work Monday to tame the fire.


8:45 a.m.: The weather is cooperating so far this morning. Temperatures are cool, around 60 degrees and winds are light. This should work in favor of firefighters for as long as it lasts.


8:30 a.m.: Gloria Thompson, 68, waited just after 8 a.m. Monday across from Starky's General Store in Lake George.

Thompson, who evacuated from her home Sunday evening, had just driven by the town fire station in hopes of receiving a report about her home. Officials told her to meet at the site along U.S. Highway 24 for a public information meeting.

The Lake George resident of six years said she came home from church Sunday at about 4:15 p.m. "driving through the smoke." A neighbor told her of the evacuations, so she and others packed up belongings and left their homes south of town.

Thompson stayed in Woodland Park with a friend Sunday night and said it is hard to stay optimistic.

"We've got a lot of prayer chains going, even in Oklahoma where my daughter lives," Thompson said. "God takes care of us. That's made me stronger for this challenge."


8 a.m.: Fire crews began heading south out of Lake George toward Elevenmile Canyon just before 8 a.m. Monday.

Fire officials briefed the more than 150 firefighters have descended on the town at the Park and Teller county line since the Springer blaze began just after noon Sunday.

Among the first crews heading out of town were those from the U.S. Forest Service and Hartsel Fire.


7:30 a.m.: A few links for the latest on this and other fires in the state.

Firefighters fear Springer fire will roar again Monday

More people at risk if another large wildfire sparks

U.S. Forest Service information

High Park fire: More evacuations ordered


7 a.m.: Recap: The Springer fire was reported just after noon Sunday in Eleven Mile Canyon, just outside of Lake George. The fire has spread to 450 acres and as of 5 p.m. Sunday was uncontained.

VIDEO: Fighting the Springer fire from the air

Evacuations have been ordered for Lake George’s Wagon Tongue, Echo Valley, Circle C Ranch and Beaver Ranch subdivisions as well as the Boy Scout Camp.

The Forest Service has created a webpage for updates about the Springer fire.

Weather is a major concern heading into today, as high winds and temperatures will provide an environment for explosive growth.


6:15 a.m.: Todd Pyle stood outside the Lake George Cafe & Pizzeria just before 6 a.m. Monday looking to the south, smoking a cigarette and drinking a cup of coffee.

Pyle was among the evacuees Sunday living near Elevenmile Canyon.

"I don't have a house right now," he said before explaining that he and wife Caroline stayed in their camper near their son's cabin in Divide Sunday night.

The Pyles received word to evacuate at about 12:30 p.m. Sunday. Pyle, the care taker of the Elevenmile dam for Denver Water, said he has not gotten an update but has been monitoring the radio.

Like many others in the town at the Park and Teller county line, Pyle is concerned that predicted hot, windy weather Monday could make the Springer blaze explode.

"That's what scares me," he said, "high winds could bring it back up."

Pyle said the fire was less than a mile from his house when he left Sunday.


5:53 a.m.: There was little activity as the sun began to filter through a shroud of smoke over Lake George Monday morning.

The only activity shortly after 5 a.m. was a small group of volunteers at Lake George Cafe & Pizzaria. Nancy Weaver and Tammie Fuhrman, both Lake George residents, joined restaurant owner Paul Venable loading 500 meals in the back of an SUV.

The 250 breakfasts and 250 lunches made the short trip to Lake George Fire Station No. 1 where more than 150 firefighters made base.

The menu of scrambled eggs, sausage, pancakes and toast for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch were purchased by the U.S Forest Service. The American Red Cross and Salvation Army are conducting similar efforts, Venable said.

"We are supplementing what they're doing," Venable said before turning to the volunteers leaving for the fire station and yelling, "Hurry back!"

Venable, who has owned the cafe for about a year and a half, said his crew had to get ready for regular customers. The restaurant opened Monday at 6 a.m.

"Provided we've got anything left," Venable said.


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