New Colo. wildfire prompts evacuations of homes
EVERGREEN, Colo. (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 fire zone was 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 that was zero percent contained. It erupted Tuesday afternoon and led to the evacuation of 460 homes. A large blaze in New Mexico, meanwhile, charred through southern New Mexico's Gila National Forest and grew to 47 square miles.
In Colorado, some evacuees said they were ready to leave Wednesday in just a few minutes, having practiced fire evacuations after last year's Lower North Fork Fire.
Karalyn Pytel was home vacuuming with her 6-year-old daughter when her husband reached her to notify her they needed to leave. The 34-year-old said she and her daughter were out of the house quickly.
She grabbed her daughter's favorite blanket, plus a laptop computer, a jewelry box and some family heirlooms.
"I grabbed a laundry basket and just threw stuff in it. I don't even know what clothes they are," Pytel said while filling out paperwork at an evacuation center.
Two U.S. Air Force Reserve C-130s arrived quickly to drop slurry around the fire in Colorado. 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.
Back in Evergreen, Pytel was asked whether Wednesday's evacuation has made her rethink living in a mountainous area at high risk for wildfires. Pytel said her family discussed moving after last year's wildfire but dismissed the idea.
"No matter where you go, really, it's always something. It's either a tornado, a hurricane, an earthquake (or) a fire. For us, it's our tornado," Pytel said.