Crews trying to stamp out southern Colorado wildfire


    WESTCLIFFE, Colo. – Firefighters helped by improved weather conditions were trying Tuesday to stop the spread of a wildfire that has forced the evacuation of hundreds of people in southern Colorado and destroyed at least two homes.

    Taking advantage of light winds, crews were building containment lines along the north side of the fire to prevent it from spreading with stronger winds from the south forecast to develop later in the day, fire operations section chief Dan Dallas said.

    The winds were not expected to gust as strongly as as they did on Monday, when the wildfire started east of the small town of Westcliffe near the Rocky Mountain foothills and spread to 24 square miles.

    No part of the fire perimeter was considered contained.

    Authorities confirmed Tuesday a second home had been destroyed in addition to one reported scorched on Monday. Officials hope to get a better view of the fire’s damage on Tuesday, said fire spokeswoman Dawn Sanchez of the U.S. Forest Service.

    Custer County Sheriff Shannon Byerly extended his sympathies to people who lost property.

    “It’s a tough situation and hopefully we can stop additional losses,” he said.

    The cause of the fire was unknown. But a stretch of dry, warm weather has raised the fire danger in much of Colorado, especially on windy days.

    Residents of 175 homes were ordered to evacuate Monday and people who live in 70 other homes have been warned to be ready to leave in case the fire spreads toward them.

    Those on standby include the residents of the town of Beulah, which was evacuated earlier this month because of another wildfire.

    That fire is believed to have been started by an excavator operator working in a ditch, possibly by creating a spark.

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