WILDFIRE ROUNDUP: Highway closed, pre-evacuation order given

June 20, 2013 Updated: June 20, 2013 at 9:35 pm
photo - The view of the East Peak fire from Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home. (via Twitter)
The view of the East Peak fire from Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home. (via Twitter) 

Five wildfires continued to burn around Colorado on Thursday, some of them causing smoky conditions along the Front Range.

Also, U.S 160 has been closed at Wolf Creek Pass because of the West Fork fire, the Colorado Department of Transportation confirmed Thursday.

West Fork fire

The main culprit of the haze in Colorado Springs is the West Fork fire, burning near Wolf Creek Pass in the San Juan Mountains in Mineral County.

The blaze has been burning since June 5, but it exploded Thursday, from 3,800 to 8,375 acres, devouring a huge swath of beetle-killed spruce trees in the Weminuche Wilderness Area.

Area campgrounds remain open, though the popular West Fork Trail (Trail No. 561) that goes to the backcountry pools known as Rainbow Hot Springs, is closed, as is East Fork Road. Many area residents have been put on pre-evacuation notice.

On the other side of Highway 160, the Windy Pass fire also more than tripled in size Wednesday, from 191 to 709 acres, threatening the Wolf Creek Ski Area. According to the Archuleta County Sheriff's Office, the flames have moved to within a quarter-mile of the ski area. Keeping the fire from the ski area is the main focus of Thursday's firefighting efforts. The latter fire was started by lightning June 14.

East Peak fire

At 9 p.m. Thursday the town of Walsenburg was put on pre-evacuation notice, according to scanner traffic.

A fire near the Spanish Peaks in rural Huerfano County in southern Colorado led to mandatory evacuations Wednesday night.

The East Peak fire destroyed a Boy Scout camp late Wednesday and some homes. Flames were reaching 150 to 200 feet into the air and 1,000 acres are now burning, according to the sheriff's office.

The American Red Cross opened an evacuation shelter at John Mall High School, 355 W. Pine St, in Walsenburg.

Lime Gulch fire

This fast-moving fire near Conifer was sparked by lightning Tuesday and has grown to 600 acres. More than 100 people were evacuated Wednesday.

No structures have burned. Waterton Canyon State Park was closed Thursday because of the fire, according to The Denver Post.

A Type 2 management team took command of the fire Thursday. During a Thursday afternoon news conference, officials said 20 to 30 homes remained threatened by fire.

The fire is causing health concerns for the Denver area and other parts of the Front Range, The Denver Post reports.

Areas that could see thick smoke from the fire Thursday include: Foxton, Buffalo Creek, Roxborough Park, Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines, Parker and Centennial.

Bull Gulch fire

This fire started Wednesday north of U.S. 50 on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands, about one mile east of Table Mountain, and about nine miles northwest of the intersection of Road Gulch and Copper Gulch Road, according to the Canon City Daily Record.

The Bull Gulch fire tripled in size overnight to 150 acres. The Texas Creek trail system, popular among off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts, is closed.

The fire is burning in brush, pi?n and juniper trees. Eight smokejumpers and two 20-person firefighting crews will work through the night. Two single-engine air tankers worked Wednesday dropping retardant over the fire.

No structures have been lost and the fire's cause is not yet known.

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