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Royal Gorge fire hasn't grown much

By: JESSE PAUL jesse.paul@gazette.com
June 13, 2013 Updated: June 14, 2013 at 12:02 am
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A five-acre fire three miles north of Cripple Creek was not contained but was not spreading as of 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

"We received and air drop and the fire is not spreading," said Cripple creek spokeswoman Maria Cunningham, who added that the Cripple Creek Fire Department remained on-scene, but no evacuations were called for.

Crews cannot contain the fire because of its remote location. It's about a mile away from Cripple Creek Mountain Estates.

Crews responded to the fire, located on Teller 1 at approximately mile marker 2, at about 2:40 p.m. Thursday, said Randy Baldwin, fire chief for the Cripple Creek Fire Department.

The Four Mile, Divide, Northeast Teller County and Florissant fire protection districts, as well as the Victor Fire Department, were on scene, Baldwin added.

Although the Royal Gorge Fire continues to burn in the mountains west of Canon City, firefighters battling the blaze have contained 20 percent of the wildfire and significantly reduced its size.

The fire burned Wednesday along the western flank, yet officials felt that "good progress was made along the eastern flank," according to a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

At the Royal Gorge fire, beetle-killed trees are fueling roughly a quarter of the blaze that has already destroyed 20 structures and forced the evacuation of hundreds, including over 900 inmates at the Territorial Prison on Highway 50.

The best news came Thursday evening. Fire officials said U.S. Highway 50 was reopened as of 8 p.m. Evacuation orders were lisfted.

Officials cautioned residents in the previously evacuated area that they remain on a pre-evacuation notice should fire conditions change.

Fire managers also determined that the Royal Gorge Tourist Train can begin operations again, once the railway can evaluate when they will be able to resume normal activities. River access on the closed portion of the Arkansas River (from Spike Buck to Cañon City) will be re-evaluated Friday.

As of Thursday morning, 136 firefighters were on-scene and officials expected more to arrive.

A red flag warning in most of southern Colorado is making conditions difficult. Teams are expected to continue building a fire line along the perimeter of the burn zone and maintain protection of structures south of Highway 50.

The Royal Gorge Fire began at about 1 p.m. Tuesday on the south side of the Arkansas River in the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. Peggy Gair, a spokeswoman for the attraction, said that "many buildings on the property were a "catastrophic loss."

The aerial tram at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park has also been destroyed, Gair confirmed Wednesday afternoon. The tram cable fell after being severely charred.

West of La Veta, the Klikus fire was 75 percent contained, having charred 42 acres. A total of 35 firefighters from the LaVeta Fire Department, Juniper Valley Type II team, Pinion Canyon, and an engine from The Colorado Division of Fire Protection and Control are battling the fire..

No structures were damaged and no injuries were reported.

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