Several neighborhoods south of Salida were ordered to evacuate early Wednesday as the Decker fire continued to ravage the Sangre de Cristo Wilderness.
The fire spread to Methodist Mountain late Tuesday and grew overnight with the help of wind gusts of 45 to 55 mph, the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Evacuations were issued about 2:30 a.m. for residents between county roads 110 and 104, including in Methodist Mountain Estates, Boot Hill, Piñon Ridge Estates, Mountain Vista Village Trailer Park and subdivisions near Methodist Mountain Estates, the Sheriff’s Office said.
About 6:30 a.m., evacuation orders were expanded to Fawn Ridge Estates and to those living south of county roads 111 and 107.
The Red Cross said Wednesday that the evacuation center previously at Chaffee County Fairgrounds would be moved to the First United Methodist Church of Salida, 228 E. 4th St.
The center will be open into Wednesday evening and on standby overnight, a Red Cross news release read. It will reopen at 8 a.m. Thursday to provide meals and information.
Large animals can still be taken to the fairgrounds, and small pets can be taken to the Ark-Valley Humane Society at 701 Gregg Drive, the Red Cross news release read.
As of Wednesday morning, the blaze had reached 3,746 acres, the Bureau of Land Management said. Authorities expect flames to continue to spread due to strong winds and relatively low humidity. Just 5 percent of the fire’s perimeter had been contained.
Fire crews have been monitoring the fire, which was sparked by lightning Sept. 8, and letting it run its course to eradicate dead trees from the forest, BLM said. Authorities don’t expect to fully contain the fire until Dec. 20.
The Decker fire was named for where the blaze began, near a drainage system known as Decker drainage, not near the town of Deckers.
The Gazette’s Liz Henderson contributed to this report.