EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. - Southern Colorado residents worry that continued dry weather and a recent rash of wildfires could lead to historic fires such as those seen in 2002, 2012 and 2013.
In the past three weeks, three major fires have burned thousands of acres, forced hundreds of evacuations, destroyed several homes and raised the anxiety level about future fire danger.
The recent trend started March 16 when a fire sparked by artillery training at Fort Carson spread into the Midway Ranch subdivision near the El Paso and Pueblo county lines, destroying several homes.
On Monday, a discarded cigarette ignited a fire in Falcon that, though it came dangerously close to some homes, left them undamaged.
Another fire began Wednesday at Fort Carson--again, from artillery training--not far from where the previous fire ignited. As of Thursday evening, however, the fire burned close to the Midway Ranch line but remained on post, with 80 percent containment.
"I wish Fort Carson would tailor their training to the conditions we have here," said Raimond Melkers, who lives in Midway Ranch. "It's been so dry that the longer we go without moisture, the worse it's going to get."
Melkers said much of the damage in the March 16 fire happened because some homeowners had too much flammable material on their properties and did not mitigate, or remove that material.
"I'd say half of the people here mitigate, the other half don't and half of them will mitigate after seeing these two fires," he said.
Authorities in the Falcon Fire said mitigation played a big role in protecting five of the most threatened homes from damage.
"Sometimes we're limited by time and resources," said Capt. Drew Olson of the Falcon Fire Department. "It's a lot easier if we don't have to make decisions about which homes we can save and which homes we can't. Mitigation really does make a difference."