The Decker fire, burning through the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness just miles from Salida, grew slightly Saturday morning, prompting a call for nearly 300 additional firefighters.
The wildfire, sparked by lightning Sept. 8 nine miles south of Salida, was only two miles from the city by Friday. The blaze grew about 100 acres by Saturday morning, bringing the total to 5,921 acres, according to a Rocky Mountain Incident Command news release.
The fire remained 5% contained Saturday.
An extra 280 firefighters were being sent to fight the flames, including a Rapid Extraction Module team that will help rescue injured or incapacitated firefighters across the challenging terrain, the news release read. The number of crew members assigned to the fire is now 730.
A red flag warning was issued Saturday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Dry weather and strong winds are expected to increase the potential for creating new smaller fires, the release read. The potential for 50 mph winds prompted a pre-evacuation notice for the Howard, Pine Ridge, Wellsville and Swissvale communities Friday afternoon.
The fire was less active Friday, the release read, which allowed helicopters to fly overhead and drop buckets of water. Saturday, aircraft will be utilized as much as possible before winds pick up.
At least one structure has been destroyed in Fremont County, according to the Incident Command team.
At least 110 homes are in the evacuation zone.
Satellite imagery showed smoke from the Decker fire spreading east past Colorado Springs on Wednesday.
“Strong winds are pushing the smoke from the Decker fire in the Sangre De Cristo Wilderness past the Cadet Chapel this evening,” the Air Force Academy tweeted Monday.
“The 1,000+ acre fire is about 100 miles away and poses no threat to the academy. Just a lot of smoke drifting by.”
The American Red Cross evacuation center at the First United Methodist Church of Salida, 228 E. Fourth St, opened again Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Red Cross said in a news release. The center, which is serving meals every day, will move to the Scout Hut at 201 E. Sacket Ave. in Salida on Sunday.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality health advisory for wildfire smoke Saturday morning for southeastern Chaffee County and northwestern Fremont counties.
“If smoke is thick or becomes thick in your neighborhood you may want to remain indoors,” read the advisory. “This is especially true for those with heart disease, respiratory illnesses, the very young, and the elderly. Consider limiting outdoor activity when moderate to heavy smoke is present. ... If visibility is less than five miles in smoke in your neighborhood, smoke has reached levels that are unhealthy.”
Though the smoke impact from the Decker fire was minimal overnight into Saturday morning, increasing winds are expected to push the smoke east, according to the department.