By Zach Hillstrom
The Pueblo Chieftain
COSTILLA COUNTY, Colo. — The Spring Fire burning in Costilla County saw a massive increase from Thursday night to Friday morning, as the fire exploded from about 4,000 acres Thursday evening to having burned nearly 33,000 acres Friday.
The fire, which began Wednesday approximately 5 miles east of Fort Garland, has entered Huerfano County and is continuing to move east toward U.S. 160 and La Veta.
The Spring Fire burning in Costilla County saw a massive increase from Thursday night to Friday morning. (Photo/Colorado State Police)
I have never seen something so scary and beautiful at the same time. I pulled off on 160 and shot the side of this hill as it burst into an inferno. Firefighters tell me 160 is now closed between La Veta and Ft. Garland. #SpringFire is as fast as they say. Terrifying. @KKTV11News pic.twitter.com/Zb1ov9NtFK
— Spencer Wilson (@Spencer_WNews) June 29, 2018
It was reportedly at zero percent contained as of Friday evening and is human-caused, though specifics were unavailable.
The blaze has burned multiple structures and prompted thousands of evacuations, but no injuries or loss of life have been reported.
Gov. John Hickenlooper declared the Spring Fire area a disaster zone, which allows agencies to pull in more resources. U.S. 160 between Fort Garland and La Veta in both directions is closed and there is no estimated time for reopening.
Officials say Thursday’s firefighting efforts concentrated on structure protection while the Costilla County Sheriff’s Office facilitated evacuations.
More than 200 firefighters attacked the fire both by air and on the ground, with aviation resources dropping fire retardant and large volumes of water on select areas while firefighters battled the blaze on the ground.
Officials noted those efforts were marginally effective due to strong winds and extremely dry conditions in the area.
Rocky Mountain Incident Team Black — an all-hazard, interagency team comprised of fire and emergency professionals from state, local, and federal entities — took command of operations at 6 a.m. Friday morning.
In a Friday press release, officials indicated they once again will concentrate on protecting structures and values at-risk while ensuring the safety of responding firefighters and the public.
The Costilla County Sheriff’s Office has focused on evacuation efforts over the past two days and in the days to come will identify lost structures and ownership.
Evacuations are in place for Forbes Park and Wagon Creek and pre-evacuations have been ordered for areas north and east of Trinchera Ranch Road.
According to San Isabel Electric, critical infrastructure damage has taken place as a result of the fire and employees are standing by with materials and contractor assistance to re-enter the burn area once emergency managers have given approval.
Several hundred meters are out in the Forbes Park area and the main line to the area has been destroyed.
Two shelters have been set up for evacuees: one at the Blanca-Fort Garland Community Center at 17591 E. U.S. 160 in Blanca, and the other at the Huerfano Community Center at 928 Russel St, Walsenburg.
Evacuated residents are advised to go to the shelter to register to obtain special tags that will allow them re-entry if their neighborhoods are reopened with restrictions.
For those in need of shelter for their pets, a facility was set up at the Las Animas County Fair Grounds in Trinidad.
Residents in the impacted areas of Costilla County who may be expecting necessities like medications from UPS may call 719-589-4477 for information about their deliveries.
The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment issued an air quality advisory Friday evening, advising citizens avoid outdoor activities due to large volumes of smoke in the area.
Those with asthma, allergies, and COPD are encouraged to stay indoors, and those with symptoms of smoke inhalation including difficulty breathing, coughing, shortness of breath or chest discomfort are asked to contact their doctors.
Copyright 2018 The Pueblo Chieftain