CONIFER, CO (June 14, 2000) -- Nearly 30 families have
lost their homes and some 800 have been evacuated as
firefighters struggled to gain control of two wildfires
The two fires have burned nearly 10,000 acres. The most
recent fire, which began near Bailey and then destroyed
homes in Conifer, has burned 4,500 acres in the
foothills 35 miles southwest of Denver. Some 500 people
have fled that fire, which official surmise was caused
by lightning. No injuries have been reported among
residents, although three firefighters have suffered
minor burns. Conditions were still highly dangerous
there on Wednesday.
Ninety miles away, another 5,000-acre blaze outside
Rocky Mountain National Park has burned at least five
structures and is threatening 250 homes nestled in
forests in area canyons. More than 400 people fled their
homes Tuesday night. Dry conditions and high winds are
causing trees to quickly ignite. A force of more than
800 firefighters continued to battle both blazes on
Wednesday, and officials couldn't predict when fire
crews would regain control.
The Salvation Army is providing relief for
displaced people as well as support services. Volunteer
teams served more than 450 meals on Tuesday night to
volunteer firefighters and the sheriff's departments on
the scene. "We have two units in each fire area," said
Captain Doug Tollured.
In Conifer, the Salvation Army is working in partnership
with the Mountain Resource Center. "We're compiling a
list of folks willing to help people," said Alana
Spears, volunteer coordinator. "We don't have hotels and
motels - this is a mountain community. So we're seeing
what resources are available in terms of housing, food,
pet care, child care, and things like that."
Most displaced people are staying at American Red Cross
shelters. The Mountain Resource Center is also working
with local churches, Spears added.
Salvation Army Captain Jim Nyberg, who was at the center
on Wednesday offering assistance, said he anticipated
that initial post-fire cleanup would take at least two
weeks. "It's good that the Mountain Resource Center is
set up to accept donations because a lot of people have
already been donating locally," he said.
The Colorado Springs chapter of Catholic Charities has
contacted a local parish in Bailey, said Rochelle
Finzel, associate director of advocacy and public
policy. "We're prepared to offer financial assistance or
counseling as the situation plays out," she said. "I do
believe the church is okay."
Other faith-based organizations, such as the American
Baptist Church, have also contacted their regional
offices and local congregations to see what resources
are needed to respond.
The fire near Conifer continues to devour acres of pine
trees, is being fueled by gusty winds. Sweltering
temperatures are adding to the danger and discomfort.
Residents are anxiously waiting for updates to lists of
An unforeseen shortage of fire retardant has hampered
fire fighting efforts. The U.S. Forest Service's
regional supply of fire retardant was exhausted on
Tuesday, forcing airplane tanks to be filled with less
Gov. Bill Owens declared an emergency, making three
counties eligible for state money. He also put the
National Guard on alert. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency has announced plans to provide
Meanwhile in New Mexico, where the huge Los Alamos
wildfire recently scorched thousands of acres, winds are
fanning two wildfires are burning northeast of Santa Fe.
A fire near Questa grew to 1,000 acres Tuesday in the
Rio Grande Gorge, while a 300-acre fire near Mora forced
33 families from their homes.
Some 44,300 fires covering more than 1.2 million acres
have been recorded in the U.S. so far this year, with
the drought conditions getting worse in the West and
In Georgia, almost 5,000 acres burned in the most recent
fire, according to Lisa Janak, public information
officer for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Urban and rural residents alike are being affected by
the drought. In Atlanta, the state has imposed tough
water restrictions for the first time in 12 years.
Alabama state officials are calling out the National
Guard to dispense drinking water in towns where wells
are in danger of running dry.
Across the Southeast, crops are withering, and farmers
are sending cattle to slaughter because there is nothing
for them to eat. In South Carolina, farmers have stopped
planting cotton and soybeans. Peanut farmers in Georgia
report they are losing their corn and peanut crops as
Wildfires are also burning in Michigan, where 40 homes
in the northern part of the state were evacuated after a
controlled burn on land spread to 400 acres.
New large fires were also reported in California on
Wednesday. Another fire in southern Nevada has scorched
more than 2,000 acres.
Some scientists believe the drought a result of La Nina,
the cooling phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that has
produced warmer winters and drier-than-normal conditions
in the Southeast.
Forecasters predict that above-normal temperatures will
continue in the South and the Midwest, and that severe
drought conditions will persist in much of the South.
Forecasters also predict the Midwest also will suffer,
particularly Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa, and
Indiana. These were among the states hardest hit by the
eight-year "Dustbowl" drought in the 1930s -- the worst
in U.S. history.
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