The Spring Creek fire in southern Colorado became the third largest in state recorded history when it soared to 95,739 acres by Wednesday evening, a more than 15,000-acre jump from Tuesday, according to the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team.

The fire, roughly 1½ to 2 hours south of Colorado Springs and burning in Costilla and Huerfano counties, remained only 5 percent contained — unchanged from Tuesday, officials said in an update. It has burned more than 100 homes built in a development started by multimillionaire publisher Malcolm Forbes in the 1970s.

It began June 27 from what investigators believe was a spark from a fire pit but quickly took off and hasn’t stopped growing. The Air Force Reserve Command’s 302nd Airlift Wing was out Wednesday, dropping fire retardant on the area to draw lines of containment. The C-130 Hercules aircraft has the ability to discharge 3,000 gallons of retardant in less than 10 seconds, covering an area of 1/4-mile long.

“It’s still an active, unpredictable fire,” Ben Doon, Costilla County’s chief administrative officer, said during an update for evacuees that was streamed on Facebook. That meeting, held on the Fourth of July, was preceded by a rendition of the national anthem.

“I’m sure when we woke up a week ago today, a lot of us were already thinking about the holiday and potentially a long weekend, our plans, spending time in the mountains, and never dreamed we’d be in a situation like this,” Doon said.

He acknowledged the frustration and anxiety of evacuees, but he had no update on when even a limited re-entry could begin.

“We know you want in,” Doon said. “We know you want to see your property.”

The two largest wildfires in recorded Colorado history are the Hayman fire at 138,114 acres in 2002 and the West Fork complex of the West Fork, Windy Pass and Papoose fires at 109,632 acres in 2013.

Spring Creek was only one of at least seven fires burning in Colorado on Wednesday.

• One of the newest fires in the state: the 2,377-acre Lake Christine fire in Eagle County, near the town of Basalt. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office reports 500 homes have been evacuated and there is no containment on the fire. A man and a woman are facing a charge of fourth-degree arson for allegedly sparking the blaze by firing tracer rounds Tuesday night at the Basalt shooting range, according to the sheriff’s office.

• The High Chateau fire in Florissant had burned 1,423 acres Wednesday, but officials tweeted about 6:30 p.m. that firefighters had gained 75 percent containment. Several areas remain under evacuation orders, but many displaced residents already have returned home.

• Firefighters held the Weston Pass fire near Fairplay at 10,727 acres and tripled containment to 15 percent, the state’s fire incident page said.

• The Burro fire south of Rico had burned 4,545 acres and was at 40 percent containment as of the last update Wednesday morning.

Two other fires appear to be winding down.

• The 416 Fire, burning in the San Juan National Forest, was holding at 53,260 acres and 45 percent containment. But officials said on the state’s fire incident page that “the fire has been less active for several days but continues to burn in rough and inaccessible terrain.” No homes are threatened.

• The Sugarloaf Fire, which started from a lightning strike near the Byers Peak Wilderness south of Fraser, was smoldering at 1,245 acres, according to the state’s incident fire page.


Kaitlin is a public safety reporter with a focus on investigations. She is a proud Ohioan, champion for local libraries, volunteer reading tutor and an expert ice cream connoisseur (mint chocolate chip!). She joined the Gazette in 2016.

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