A wildfire has destroyed at least one home and charred more than 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) in central Colorado.The Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Protection District on Wednesday were alerting residents south of Salida to evacuate their homes as the fire, dubbed the Decker Fire, burned in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains about 9 miles south of town.
By Friday it had moved to within 2 miles of town.
Evacuations were mandatory for Methodist Mountain Estates, Boot Hill, Pinon Ridge Estate, Fawn Ridge Estates and Mountain Vista Village. Evacuees were asked to check in at the fairgrounds.
The U.S. Forest Service described the wind-driven Decker Fire as “extreme.” It was characterized by crowning fires spreading across treetops and long-range spotting.
By 10 a.m. Friday, the fire has grown to 5,824 acres up from about 3,750 acres since Wednesday. Containment remains at 5%.
The fire started Sept. 8 in the 220,803-acre Sangre de Cristo Wilderness Area and was allowed to burn beetle-killed trees. The wilderness area is managed by the Forest Service and the National Park Service and is bordered on its west by the Great Sand Dunes Wilderness to the west.
Officials said winds gusting to 45 mph were expected Wednesday.
On Friday, fire managers said 458 crew members are on the ground, up from 241 crew members on Wednesday.
Many new resources have arrived on the Decker Fire including nine new engines, multiple firefighting crews, another dozer, another Type 1 Chinook helicopter, and more fixed-wing air craft.
Resources on the fire include four Type 1 hand crews, eight Type 2 hand crews, 19 engines, three dozers, and five water tenders. There are six helicopters and three airplanes assisting with the fire fight.
According to the Forest Service, some crews were helping at-risk homeowners establish defensive lines by turning on sprinklers and removing flammable fuels located near homes. An engine crew from the Dolores area also was establishing defensive lines.
By Friday, windy and dry weather is expected to fuel the fire on the east side of the Sangres, moving into the Fremont and Methodist mountains. Another day of wind, low humidity and continued overnight burning was expected to result in crowning fires on the east side of the Sangres that move north and east toward the Fremont and Methodist mountains the heads of Bear and Rock creeks.