West Fork Complex fire not contained

Massive fire in southwest Colorado has burned 75,150 acres

June 24, 2013

A trio of fires, renamed the West Fork Complex, have forced evacuations in southwestern Colorado. The fires are neither controlled or contained, fire officials said.

The West Fork Complex is comprised of the West Fork Fire, the Papoose Fire and the Windy Pass Fire- three fires burning near highways 149 and 160 between Creede, South Fork and the Wolf Creek Ski Area.

The fire has burned about 75,150 acres about 14 miles northeast of Pagosa Springs.

The massive blaze, which is threatening the town of South Fork, is burning through steep terrain with heavy timber, included large areas of dead, standing beetle-kill spruce trees.

“This is a significant fire, with significant problems,” said Pete Blume, West Fork Complex incident commander.

Asked about whether firefighters had achieved any containment or control, Penny Bertram, spokeswoman for the National Incident management Organization team leading massive deployment against the fire, said, “None whatsoever.”

“It looks like it could be just like this for the next few days,” Bertram said.

Investigators said they think the fire was started by lightning June 5th, about 14.5 miles northeast of Pagosa Springs.

Power had been disrupted in the area by the fire.

On Monday, there will be 4 or 5 heavy air tankers, 3 single-engine air tankers and 5 helicopters fighting the fire from the air, according to air operations branch director Larry Trapp.

Trapp said 895 fire personnel are assigned to the complex of fires.

The fire’s rapid advance prompted the evacuation of thousands of summer visitors and South Fork’s 400 permanent residents Friday, and it could be days before people are allowed back into their homes, cabins and RV parks, fire crew spokeswoman Laura McConnell said.

Creede is currently not under an evacuation order.

The cost of fighting the fire as of Monday is $2.2 million.

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