COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.: Two U.S. Defense Department cargo planes were mobilized Wednesday to help battle wildfires in Colorado and elsewhere in the West as crews surveyed the damage from a large fire burning near Colorado Springs that already has destroyed dozens of homes.
Authorities initially estimated between 40 and 60 houses burned in Black Forest, a heavily wooded residential area northeast of Colorado Springs. El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said Wednesday he believes around 80 have been lost, and he wouldn’t be surprised if the figure reaches or tops 100.
Maketa said there were no reports of anyone missing in the fire. But he was concerned for those who chose to ignore evacuation orders and stay behind.
“One of my worst fears is that people took their chances and it may have cost them their life,” he said.
Maketa said gusty winds expected later in the day could cause the fire to spread unpredictably.
The fire was one of several that broke out along Colorado’s Front Range Tuesday and quickly spread in high winds and record heat. It has burned about 12 square miles and forced the evacuation of more than 7,000 people in an area over 47 square miles. The area is not far from last summer’s devastating Waldo Canyon Fire that destroyed 346 homes and killed two.
“Everywhere you looked, you saw scattered fires, almost like there was a huge convention of campfires everywhere, and periodically you’d see trees just pop into a fireball,” Maketa said.
Wildfires were also burning in New Mexico, Oregon and California.