7 cabins, 2 homes destroyed in Colorado wildfire

Friday, May 24, 2002

DECKERS, Colo. -- Seven buildings at a youth campground and two summer homes burned as a wind-whipped wildfire raged through a central Colorado forest Thursday.

The blaze, which grew by eight times over a few hours and destroyed a home Wednesday, was estimated at between 4,000 and 5,000 acres Thursday, Forest Service spokesman Bill Rice said.

"This is the No. 1 priority in the nation. We get the first opportunity for resources," said Pam Gardner, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service.

A front expected late Thursday could bring snow and badly needed rain to the area 50 miles southwest of Denver, but firefighters worried that high winds ahead of it could further fan the flames.

More than 100 students were evacuated from the youth camp late Tuesday as the fire raced north, and about 100 homes were threatened in the area surrounding Deckers, a popular fly-fishing spot on the South Platte River.

"There's nothing you can do about it," said homeowner B.A. Claussen, who saw flames on his way to spend a week at his cabin Tuesday night. "I grabbed the wine and the stamp collection and we loaded the good stuff in the Jeep."

Claussen donned a fire retardant suit to go with firefighters to check out his cabin and was relieved to find it barely singed. A neighbor's home was destroyed, he said, and flames had damaged Claussen's shed and wood pile. But trees around his home were still standing.

Other fires

Two wildfires also were burning in western Colorado in the Uncompahgre National Forest. One covered 2,200 acres and the other 1,100 acres. No structures were lost, and no evacuations were needed in the sparsely populated area.

Several other fires were burning in the West.

In Arizona, about 250 homeowners and campers near Mount Lemmon were warned they might have to evacuate as a Coronado National Forest wildfire grew to 7,200 acres Thursday. About 470 firefighters were battling the blaze northeast of Tucson in rugged, hilly terrain. No structures were threatened.

In New Mexico, a wildfire burning in northeastern Santa Fe County quickly consumed about 430 acres and moved toward the Pecos Wilderness before air tankers slowed its pace. The fire was burning about six miles from the small northern community of Truchas, but officials said no structures were immediately threatened.

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