New Colo. wildfire prompts evacuations of homes
DENVER (AP) -- A new wildfire in the foothills southwest of Denver forced the evacuation of dozens of homes Wednesday as hot and windy conditions in much of Colorado and elsewhere in the West made it easy for fires to start and spread.
The Lime Gulch Fire in Pike National Forest was small but devouring trees about 30 miles southwest of Denver in southern Jefferson County. Evacuation calls went out to more than 400 telephone numbers in the area, and residents within 3 miles of the fire were ordered to leave, said Jefferson County sheriff's spokeswoman Jacki Kelley. That order was later extended to the unincorporated township of Buffalo Creek.
The immediate fire zone is steep mountain terrain, heavily forested and several miles south of where last year's Lower North Fork Fire damaged and destroyed 23 homes and killed three people. That fire was triggered by a prescribed burn that escaped containment lines.
The cause of Wednesday's blaze was unknown, and it came as up to 600 Arizona firefighters battled a nearly 8-square-mile wildfire in Prescott National Forest. It was zero percent contained since erupting Tuesday afternoon and residents of 460 homes had been told to evacuate.
A large blaze in New Mexico charring through southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest grew to 47 square miles, and could expand to another nine if wind gust reach 35 miles per hour as expected.
In Colorado, two U.S. Air Force Reserve C-130s arrived quickly to drop slurry around the fire. The specially-equipped cargo planes, attached to the 302nd Airlift Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, were operating out of Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in suburban Denver, said Airlift Wing spokeswoman Ann Skarban at Peterson.
The C-130s had just finished duty on Sunday fighting a 22-square-mile wildfire near Colorado Springs that destroyed 509 homes and killed two people. More than 960 fire personnel at the Black Forest Fire contended with wind gusts Wednesday as they tried to contain the fire and find and extinguish hot spots.
In Black Forest, northeast of Colorado Springs, authorities said Marc and Robin Herklotz were killed as the fire erupted June 11. Their bodies were found in their garage by a car, as if they were trying to flee, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has said.
Marc Herklotz, 52, and Robin Herklotz, 50, worked at Air Force Space Command, which operates military satellites, and were based at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, the Air Force said. Marc Herklotz entered the Air Force in 1983 but most recently was working as a civilian employee. Robin Herklotz was an Air Force contractor.
Their home was about 4 miles northeast of where the fire was first reported.
A neighbor, Bob Schmidt, said he received an evacuation call that day but that the Herklotzes had said they did not get a call. Their homes lay just outside a mandatory evacuation boundary announced on Twitter by El Paso County at 3:34 p.m. that day. The zone was expanded to include their Jicarilla Drive home two hours later.
Schmidt said the Herklotzes were fixtures in the area, walking their dog every night and coming by to get eggs from Schmidts' chickens.
"They loved the forest," Schmidt.
The Black Forest Fire was 85 percent contained. Investigators say they believe it was human-caused but have yet to determine what triggered it.
In California, officials said an unattended campfire near a main route into Yosemite National Park grew into a blaze that led to the evacuations of 1,500 people. As many as 500 remained evacuated Wednesday. The fire was 40 percent contained.