By Thomas Peipert
The Associated Press
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Three Colorado wildfires fueled by hot temperatures, gusty winds and thick, bone-dry forests have together burned dozens of homes and led to the evacuation of more than 7,000 residents and nearly 1,000 inmates at medium-security prison.
Wildfires also were burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California, where a smokejumper was killed fighting one of dozens of lightning-sparked fires.
Crews were so busy battling wildfires across the West that the U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday it is mobilizing a pair of Defense Department cargo planes to drop slurry on the blazes. Such action can’t be taken unless all of the Forest Service’s contracted tankers already are in use.
Near Colorado Springs, authorities released a list showing that a 12-square-mile wildfire in a heavily-wooded residential area has destroyed 92 homes and partially damaged five others — even as it continued to send up puffs of black smoke and likely consumed more buildings.
The fire, one of several that broke out Tuesday along Colorado’s Front Range, has forced thousands of evacuations in an area over 47 square miles. An unknown number of Colorado Springs residents also have been warned to be ready to evacuate, mostly because of a fear of flying embers spreading the fire into the state’s second-largest city. Sheriff’s officials also evacuated part of neighboring Elbert County, including two camps with a total of about 1,250 kids and adults.
The smell of smoke and bits of ash floated in Denver, about 60 miles to the north, where the haze blocked the sun.