Local News

Wildfire near Walsenburg forces many to leave home

HUERFANO COUNTY, Colo. - A wildfire burning at the base of the Spanish Peak's east peak Thursday forced people to evacuate their homes.

Fire crews fought the flames through the night. Huerfano County's Sheriff hoped the fire would slow down overnight. However, 150 to 200 feet high flames lit up the darkness and showed no signs of slowing down.

"It's very aggressive, there is a lot of dead fuels in between the trees, it's burning very aggressively," said Sheriff Bruce Newman.

He requested more aid on the ground and in the air. Fire fighters on their way into the fire said Thursday's hot temperatures and high winds would hinder their firefight.

"It's jumping. We had flames jumping up, starting a quarter mike away from the main fire so it's moving and it's really jumping," said Newman.

The flames forced Boy Scouts and their leaders to evacuate Spanish Peak Scout Ranch. The fire started 5:30 p.m. Wednesday west of the camp.

Doug Brussan worked at the camp for decades.

"That place has been there since the '60s. I've seen grandpas take their grandsons there and now it's gone," said Brussan.

Brussan and his brother David Brussan witnessed the fire's strength.

"You could hear it. The fire was roaring and when the fire roars from 2 miles away, you know it's big," said Doug Brussan.

"The fire was moving faster than you could move on foot if you were up there," said David Brussan. "If you were downwind from it, you would not have been able to get out of its way."

The Red Cross set up a shelter for evacuees at Walsenburg's John Mall High School.

Jason Mercier and his wife Hannah stayed at the shelter with their three young girls. They live along County Road 316 about 12 miles south of Walsenburg.

"We went outside and saw the degree [of the fire] so we went ahead and started packing up some stuff," said Jason.

The couple said last summer's Waldo Canyon Fire and this summer's Black Forest Fire opened their eyes to the real danger of wildfires.

"After the Black Forest fire we talked about jokingly what we would do, we thought we were ready, we knew what we were going to grab but emotionally it's really no preparing yourself for that," said Jason.

Hannah grew up in the couple's current home. They do not know if their home survived the fire.

"It's a lot of memories being lost and it's hard," said Hannah.

The couple said they are thankful for the time they had to prepare before the evacuation phone call came in. They are most grateful for their family's safety.

"(The) family is taken care of and houses can be rebuilt. It may take a lot of work, a lot of effort, a lot of money, but it can be done," said Jason.

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