Royal Gorge Fire grows to 3,800 acres; Three buildings burn; Mandatory evacuations in effect

Fire forces evacuation of 881 inmates from prison

CANON CITY, Colo. - Three buildings were confirmed destroyed by the Royal Gorge Fire burning west of Canon City, which grew to 3,800 acres during the day Tuesday.

The fire spokesman was unable to describe precisely which structures had burned. He said the containment is estimated at zero percent but about 150 firefighters are working to improve that number.

The fire crossed the Arkansas River near the Royal Gorge Bridge, the spokesman said the latest information indicated the bridge remains intact.

"This fire is not going away real soon. This fire is going to be burning for a number of days," the spokesman said.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect south of Highway 50 from the Canon City Water Treatment facility west to County Roads 3 and 3A. Highway 50 is closed in both directions from Canon City, west  to Parkdale.

The fire was also forcing the evacuation of 881 inmates from Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Canon City late Tuesday night, state prison officials said. The medium-security inmates will be relocated to the vacant Colorado State Penitentiary II, which is also in Canon City.

7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn said the inmates will be transferred in vans and some handicap-accessible vehicles for those with special needs. The territorial prison houses a 32-bed infirmary and so patients and hospice inmates are also being relocated.

Royal Gorge Park has been evacuated and the Arkansas River is closed from Spike Buck through Canon City.

The massive plume of smoke can be seen for miles.

"Canon City was a blanket of smoke and ashes," said Canon City resident Jodienne Remillard.

BLM spokeswoman Denise Adamic described gusty wind conditions in the fire area south of Royal Gorge. She said the fire, which started on the south side of the Arkansas River around 1 p.m., has also crossed to the north side of the river.

Adamic said the fire is burning on both BLM and private lands.

The Canon City Fire Protection District said the fire was being pushed toward the north, which is where evacuations are in effect.

The Red Cross has said an evacuation center will be opened at Evangelical Free Church in Canon City at 3000 E. Main St.

The Pueblo Zone Type 3 Incident Management team will take over management of this fire overnight, but command will be handed to a Type 2 Management Team during the day Wednesday. Resources ordered for the firefighting effort includes 2 single engine air tankers, 1 heavy air takner and the management teams.

The Royal Gorge Bridge and Park's webcam showed a large plume of smoke from about 1:30 to 2 p.m., but now appears to be inaccessible. http://www.royalgorgebridge.com/webcam.aspx

Please refresh this page for updates on this developing situation.

-- Fire Evacuation map: http://ch7ne.ws/19odVpR


View Royal Gorge Evacuation Zone in a larger map