Royal Gorge Fire: 65 percent contained; all evacations lifted; Royal Gorge Route Railroad reopens

Fire crews make strong progress

CANON CITY, Colo. - The Royal Gorge Fire is 65 percent contained and fire crews made strong progress on Friday, authorities said.

All evacuations were lifted Friday.

On Saturday, firefighters will continue to strengthen lines on the southwest side of the fire and conduct mop up operations on the entire fire perimeter, said Chris Barth, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management.

The fire started Tuesday near Canon City and it has burned 3,218 acres.

A sign of the improving conditions: the Royal Gorge Route Railroad reopened Saturday and was selling tickets at 50 percent off. The 1 1/2-hour train ride will travel half-way through the Gorge with a views of the Royal Gorge Bridge.  

However, the fire caused extensive damage at the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. Forty-eight of the park's 52 structures have been damaged, along with part of the historic bridge.

Fire Information Officer Mike Smith said the cable house for the incline railway was badly damaged, as were the tracks for that ride. The aerial tram and both terminal buildings were also lost, resulting in the cables plunging into the gorge.

The landmark Royal Gorge Bridge, a steel structure with wooden planks for a road surface, survived but has damage to 32 planks.

Because of the amount of devastation, Smith said it was easier to list the park structures that survived the fire. He said those were the Bighorn Lodge, Zip Line buildings, the park ranger building, the Plaza Theater, the Sky Coaster ride and the animal barn.