Homes lost in Spring Fire now 132


VALLEY — The Costilla County Assessor’s Office on Thursday released an updated Forbes Park assessment report of areas affected by the Spring Fire, with the total loss of homes updated to 132.

Earlier this week the assessor’s office released a report delineating 104 houses lost in the fire. The updated July 5 report listed 132 houses lost. (This includes the 104 already listed.) There were also some garages lost where the houses remained intact, and other homes sustained partial damage but were not entirely destroyed.

Forbes Park homeowners will be allowed in this Saturday for a brief time to see for themselves the damage the fire has caused to their properties. Temporary re-entry will be open to property owners only who have received rapid tags and only for a four-hour period, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 7.

As of Thursday night, the Spring Fire was listed at 103,657 acres (only 300 more acres than the Thursday morning report) with 35 percent of the perimeter contained and 1,444 personnel involved in the firefighting operations.

Firefighters accomplished a significant amount of containment on Thursday. Prior to Thursday’s efforts, the Spring Fire was listed at only 5 percent containment.

Highway closures remain in effect for Highways 160 (between Fort Garland and La Veta), 12 and 69.

Lt. Governor Donna Lynne and Governor John Hickenlooper will be visiting the Spring Fire sites today, Friday, with the lieutenant governor visiting the Huerfano County side Friday morning and the governor visiting the Costilla County side Friday afternoon after a visit to the Lake Christine Fire. Both will tour the emergency operations centers and afterwards hold short media briefings.

Saturday re-entry

Re-entry on Saturday will be for units A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, and J with the possibility of units K, L, M, N, and P. That decision will be made by the 1 p.m. evacuee meeting on Friday.

Everyone in each vehicle entering the area must have rapid tags to be allowed in. Rapid tags must be obtained in advance at the Disaster Assistance Center at the Fort Garland Community Center, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, July 6 and 7-11 a.m. on Saturday, July 7.

The checkpoint will be at the road closure location in Fort Garland, and Colorado State Patrol will escort cars to the Forbes Park Entrance.

American Red Cross will have cleaning kits available at the Forbes Community Center.  Additional resources (victims advocates, behavioral health, and Red Cross) along with dumpsters will be located at the Forbes Community Center.

Tetanus shots are highly recommended for property owners going back in on Saturday. A tetanus shot clinic will be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday at the mobile clinic in the parking lot at the Blanca/Fort Garland Community Center.

A special unit has been preparing for residents to go back into the area. Their efforts have included clearing dead trees off roadways and addressing hazardous material issues such as propane tanks. They have not gone into any homes.

Due to hot spots and shifting winds, assessments are still not completed in the Wagon Creek and Sangre de Cristo Ranches areas because it has not been safe for the Costilla County Assessor’s Office crew to enter and complete assessments.

For more details see http://www.slvemergency.org/

Spring Fire Mobile Medical Unit Coverage

Valley-Wide Health Systems has committed the use of its mobile medical unit to provide increased medical coverage to Spring Fire evacuees in Costilla County. The mobile unit will be stationed at the Fort Garland Community Center.

Valley-Wide will provide medical providers and staff each day through July 15th during the hours of 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. The mobile medical unit will be closed each day from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. This includes weekends. On Friday, July 6th, tetanus immunizations will be offered beginning at 10 a.m.

The medical staff on site will provide acute healthcare services.

Contact Toni Romero at 719-588-0513.

Tipton urges SuperTanker use

U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton sent a letter to the White House on Thursday regarding the use of the supertanker on the Spring Creek and Lake Christine Fires should incident commanders think it useful.

The congressman pointed out the severity of the Spring Creek Fire, which had quickly become the third largest in Colorado history.

“This fire and the Lake Christine Fire, currently burning at about 5,000 acres, are both dangerously close to a number of communities and already hundreds of homes have been evacuated,” Tipton wrote. “Homes have sadly been lost in both fires. With continued dry and hot weather fueling extreme fire conditions, this has the potential to become an even more devastating situation with the losses drastically increasing if these fires are not quickly contained.”

Tipton commended the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as well as other state and local entities for working around the clock to slow these fires and protect the property in their path as well as aid those who have been displaced.

He added that he wanted to make sure all available resources were being utilized to fight these fires and protect lives and property. He referred to a converted Boeing 747-400 operated by Global SuperTanker with the capacity to drop over 19,000 gallons of retardant or water per pass, which is currently parked on the runway near Colorado Springs.

“This is nearly twice the capacity of the largest USFS tankers that are active,” Tipton stated. “If the incident commanders deem such an asset would be helpful and appropriate for the conditions and terrain of these fires, I ask that you intervene to expedite federal approvals to get the plane off the ground. My initial inquiry to the USFS on this matter resulted in an explanation that it is not being used because of hold-ups regarding the carding of the aircraft and pilots. If addressing this is not immediately possible, I request assurances from FEMA that the agency will cover the costs of impacted counties should they enter into call-as-needed agreements with Global SuperTanker for the use of the aircraft to suppress these fires. Currently, several Colorado counties have call-as-needed contracts for the use of the tanker, though not those impacted by the Spring Creek and Lake Christine fires …

With people’s lives and property at stake, time is of the essence and we must do everything possible.”

The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) then issued a statement that it has signed a Call-When-Needed (CWN) contract with Global SuperTanker for use of a 747 in firefighting efforts throughout the state. The Colorado Springs-based Global SuperTanker is currently completing the approval process – or “carding” – through a joint process with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). This process would certify the SuperTanker to fight fires under its renewed CAL FIRE contract, contracts with other states including Colorado, as well as USFS lands, while under state auspices.

“The carding process is currently delayed solely because the SuperTanker needs a USFS required software addition. The SuperTanker team is continuing to work with Latitude Geographics Group Ltd (a USFS vendor) and USFS to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible, so it can fight fires where its services are needed,” the Thursday statement read.

“Colorado is our home base, and there is nothing we’d like to be doing more than working alongside the brave men and women currently fighting some of the worst fires the state has ever seen,” said Global SuperTanker CEO Jim Wheeler. “We will work with the State of Colorado and others who need our services as quickly as possible.”

Caption: Rain was a welcome sight in Cuchara Thursday afternoon as firefighters worked on structure protection in the town, which has been threatened by the Spring Fire./Photo courtesy of Tyler Schmidt, South Fork Fire Rescue Volunteer

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