VALLEY — Firefighters are winning the battle in the challenging Spring Fire fight, which as of late Monday was listed at 77 percent contained.
Each day brings more containment and more re-entry for residents evacuated by the fire that began nearly two weeks ago on June 27 in Costilla County. The third largest fire in Colorado history has reached a size of 107,967 acres.
More evacuees were allowed to go home on Monday as Sangre de Cristo Ranches was opened up. Further re-entry will occur today (Tuesday, July 10) when Forbes Wagon Creek will move from mandatory evacuation to pre-evacuation status. Residents will begin re-entry at 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
Forbes Park residents, many of whom viewed their properties during a limited re-entry on Saturday, will not be allowed back in until electricity has been restored, a process incident command staff are hoping will occur in a few days.
“I’m going home in a few days and hopefully so are you,” Incident Commander Shane Greer told evacuees during the Monday briefing at the Blanca/Fort Garland evacuation center. “It is days.”
Costilla County Administrator Ben Doon said electrical crews are working in the Forbes Park area to restore power, and once that is completed, residents will be allowed back in. “We’re talking days,” he said.
He added, however, that cell and landline phone service and internet would likely not be restored, so residents would have to decide for themselves if they felt comfortable returning without those services in place.
Doon also addressed the number of houses lost in Costilla County alone during the Spring Fire, a number that had risen to 146 by Monday. He said that represents 6-7 percent of all the housing units in the county, which is significant.
The Costilla County Assessor’s Office had released structural assessment reports on Sunday evening for Wagon Creek, which lost 12 houses, and Sangre de Cristo Ranches Unit L3 which had one home lost. In addition to houses, some garages and other auxiliary buildings have been destroyed in the fire.
In addition to re-entry into evacuated areas, Highway 160 has reopened. The highway reopened Saturday afternoon, then closed again due to fire activity and then reopened again. It remains open. Drivers are urged to use caution, however, as firefighting activity is still ongoing in the area.
Costilla County Emergency Management Coordinator Chris Rodriguez said on Monday, “We’re getting there…we can all see the ending to this disaster.”
Caption: This dramatic photo was posted on the Spring Fire Facebook page, illustrating the amazing efforts being made in the ongoing firefight. Shown is an AirCrane, which holds over 1,000 gallons of water. The helicopter was supporting a burn out operation.