Colorado wildfire: Thousands evacuate; several homes torched; many more in danger

BEULAH, Colo., Oct. 4 (UPI) — A wildfire burning in central Colorado has forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 people, burned thousands of acres and sent a number of homes up in smoke, authorities said Tuesday.

The Pueblo County Sheriff issued a stern warning to people in and near the town Monday night to evacuate while the fire died down overnight, based on concerns it could grow worse.

The grass fire has so far scorched 5,500 acres of the Beulah Valley and destroyed 14 structures, eight of them homes, though officials say so far there are no injuries.

As of late Tuesday, the fire was zero percent contained, authorities said in a news release. The cause is still unknown.

The fire started Monday and grew quickly, fire officials said. By Tuesday, crews had gotten a better handle on the flames but still face a long uphill battle.

“We had a fairly successful day, the winds weren’t as bad as predicted and crews made progress,” Paul Duarte, incident management commander, said.

The fire is burning about 25 miles southwest of the town of Pueblo and 140 miles due south of Denver.

Evacuations began Monday around 6 p.m. and increased over the course of the night to cover more than 700 homes and 1,950 residents, officials said.

More than 400 firefighters are battling the wildfire. Air tankers and choppers delivering retardant are periodically buzzing the heaviest flames.

Although crews have set up a perimeter around much of the fire, officials are worried of the potential for more damage in the Beulah Valley.

“We expect the wind to move in a westerly direction this afternoon, which would move the fire deeper into the community,” spokeswoman Sarah Joseph said Tuesday.

Wednesday,a “type 2” incident management team will take over from the “type 3” team presently fighting the flames. A “type 2” team is a bit more powerful, officials said.

Firefighters said wind in the area could complicate suppression efforts.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved federal funding to help fight the fire, which continues to threaten more than 700 structures, including 100 homes, the Denver Post reported.

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