South Fork Threatened

Posted at: 06/22/2013 6:02 PM
Updated at: 06/22/2013 8:19 PM
By: Mike Anderson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

In Southwest Colorado, the West Fork Complex fire has now combined with the Papoose fire.

Together it's burned more than 53-thousand acres.

Firefighters in Southern Colorado are seeing things that are extremely unusual.

"Our fire behavior analyst said pointed out that this event in unprecedented and undocumented in human history," said Curtis Heaton, Incident Commander for the West Fork Fire.

The fire has jumped the Continental Divide.

The Divide works as a natural barrier and typically this would stop a fire from spreading.

But a lot of trees have been killed by bark beetles, making them more susceptible to fire.

"Because of the amount of dead standing trees this fire has spotted several miles over the Continental Divide and it’s just defied all efforts to slow it or attempt to control it," said Heaton.

The West Fork fire has forced the evacuation of the town of South Fork and road closure of Highway 160 to South Fork, forcing everyone to drive though Chama to get to the other side.

"There was a lot of them who were stuck here who didn't want to get through the New Mexico part so there were some that were stuck here and were worried about getting out," said Miriam Quezada, of Pagosa Springs.

But fire officials are trying to keep surrounding recreation areas open and are working to preserve areas like the Wolf Creek ski resort.

"We're working directly with ski area we have firefighters in place and try to hold the fire in place were trying to hold the fire above the Continental Divide above the ski area at this time," said Heaton.

The West Fork Complex fire is zero percent contained. Evacuees are moving to a Red Cross relief center ... in Del Norte, Colorado.