COALDALE – Heavy smoke created low visibility for drivers on U.S. 50 as a fire burning as much as 5,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the San Isabel National Forest caused campgrounds to be evacuated Sunday.
The U.S. Forest Service Twitter feed reported roadblocks were set up at the intersection of Fremont County Roads 45 and 6, and evacuations of Cutty’s Resort and Hayden Creek campgrounds were enforced.
Ryan Christensen, Howard, said he saw the plume of smoke around 3 p.m. and it continued to grow.
“It’s concerning even for us in Howard,” Christensen said. “It’s in the back of my mind right now, but the smoke is the big issue. We have a little baby at home and she’s on oxygen at night. So we’ll probably have to head to Salida.”
Robert Parker, a Coaldale resident and owner of Itty Bitty Lakes Gallery Art Post, said he had to close shop and gather the work of other artists to ensure nothing happens should the fire reach his building.
“Our business is shot because of all of this,” Parker said. “We’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars of other people’s art as well as my own art, and it has to be safe.”
Parker has been at the location for nearly 35 years. He said the conditions are the worst he’s ever seen.
“I was a wildfire fighter and a local volunteer firefighter for about 16 years,” Parker said. “I’ve been involved in a whole lot of these, and this community has never had one this close. We had one (Nipple Mountain) about 6 or 8 miles away, but it’s never filled our valley with smoke like this, and it was never really a threat.”
Currently the Fremont County wildland team and U.S. Forest Service firefighters are fighting the fire.
According to the Pueblo Interagency Dispatch Center website, a fire was reported in the area at about 6 p.m. Friday.
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page reported around 6 p.m. Sunday that “Frecom dispatch just sent out a reverse 911 to a 3-mile radius from Hayden Creek Road with the following information:
“There is currently a fire located in the area of U.S. 50 and County Road 6 in the Coaldale area. Please be advised the fire is well up on the mountain and there is no imminent danger at this time. Fire units and deputies are on scene and taking care of the fire. Thank you.”