FORT GARLAND — As the Spring Fire grew to 103,357 acres by Thursday morning, more Forbes Park landowners displaced by the fire prepared to learn whether their homes are still standing.
Spring Fire, which began last Wednesday, had grown to 103,357 acres by Thursday morning and was still listed as 5 percent contained. It is now the third largest wildfire in state history.
A second notification meeting for Forbes Park property owners will be held today, Thursday, July 5, at 4 p.m. at the Sierra Grande Middle School next to the Blanca/Fort Garland Community Center that has served as an evacuation center for the past week.
Many homeowners learned whether their homes had been destroyed or survived the fire during the first notification meeting Monday night in San Luis. That meeting revealed that 104 houses had been lost in the area the Costilla County Assessor’s Office had been able to get into to perform structural assessments. Since that time more assessments have been conducted, and the remainder of the property owners will find out the results tonight. The meeting is restricted to property owners and not open to the public or media.
The meeting will include breakout sessions during which the condition assessment will be shared for properties with permanent structures (no RVs or vacant land). Property owners whose property was destroyed or damaged will receive photos of their property. Behavioral health staff will be available. Folks needing assistance may also see www.slvbhg.org or call 719-589-3671.
Homeowners who are unable to attend the meeting on Thursday can view the assessment report on www.slvemergency.org later Thursday evening.
On the southern border, firefighters continue extinguishing hotspots within the community of South Forbes. On Tuesday, crews performed firing operations at the fire’s perimeter to keep fire from moving further south into the neighborhood.
Firefighting efforts continue to include the use of air support, ground and heavy equipment with nearly 1,000 personnel on scene. Two management teams are working the fire, one headquartered in Fort Garland and the other in Walsenburg.
Highway 160 remains closed between Fort Garland and La Veta. The fire has the potential to reach Highway 69 to the northeast in the next day or two.
The re-entry process for areas that have known fire damage is designed to ensure the security of the investigation and the safety of residents. It will begin for each unit after law enforcement has cleared the unit, and it will proceed in phases for each area. Different areas may be in different phases of the process at the same time, depending on safety conditions, and officials may decide to skip phases they deem unnecessary.
Phase A-B – Utility companies, debris clearing crews, damage assessment teams, and other agencies will enter to ensure that the area is safe enough for residents to return.
Phase C – Limited re-entry for a short window of time for residents with Rapid Tag and photo identification and then everyone will need to come back out at the end of the window..
Phase D – Re-entry for residents and businesses with Rapid Tags.
The fire was human caused, and Jesper Joergensen, 52, was arrested on arson charges after fire from a fire pit in which he had been cooking meat caught sagebrush on fire near his camper.
For more information:
Inciweb: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5875/ Facebook: facebook.com/springfire2018
For fire-specific information call 719-695-9573
The Valley Courier is posting updates, photos and alerts related to the fire on its Facebook page. Courier Publisher Keith R. Cerny was one of several media allowed into a portion of the burned area on Tuesday to document the devastation left behind. Several of his photos are shared in today’s Courier edition, and below are links to videos from his site visit:
Caption: The meadow near La Veta Pass on U.S. 160 and across from the Park Creek road was back burned by fire crews in an effort to keep the Spring Fire from crossing the highway which it eventually did further east and near the top of the pass./Courier photo by Keith R. Cerny