Colorado’s Black Forest fire has claimed 360 homes, the most ever in a Colorado wildfire. The flames are estimated to have burned through 15,000 acres, Sheriff Terry Maketa announced at a Wednesday news conference.
That marked a dramatic increase from the 8,500 acres officials said had been burned by Wednesday night, he noted.
High winds combined with dry brush have fanned the devastating flames. The fire continues to churn through dry trees, grass and pine needles, and is burning without any containment, officials said.
Maketa praised the swift help that civilian workers have been getting from the National Guard and other military responders. Authorities are watching neighborhoods and homes to do everything they can to keep them safe while combating the blaze.
The evacuation area includes 94,000 acres and 13,000 homes as of Thursday morning. At least 38,000 residents have been evacuated. The evacuation area extends from Black Forest north in Elbert County. Some areas of Colorado Springs to the south are under a pre-evacuation notice.
The fire is about 10 miles east of last year’s Waldo Canyon fire, which had been the state’s most destructive after killing two people and wiping out 346 homes.
Wednesday afternoon Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order declaring a disaster emergency for the fire, “ordering $5.5 million from the Disaster Emergency Fund to pay for the fire suppression, response and recovery effort related to the fire since its inception,” his office said in a news release.
Forecasters have said the weather conditions, including wind gusts of 30-35 mph, will continue to hamper firefighting efforts. There are also forecasts of thunderstorms moving into the area, which produce lightning, increase the chance of new fires.
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