Colder, wetter weather helped firefighters battling three major wildfires in Colorado Wednesday.The fire in Ordway on the eastern plains was fully contained Wednesday night as was a fire in Carbondale.A third fire at Fort Carson was still burning, officials said.Tuesday's wind gusts of 50 mph fanned flames that spread out quickly across 11 square miles of grassland near Ordway and forced the evacuation of all of its 1,200 residents. At least eight homes in town and 16 homes in the county have been destroyed, fire spokesman Chris Sorensen said. Two volunteer firefighters were killed when a bridge collapsed as their fire truck crossed it Tuesday afternoon.By Wednesday the evacuation order was lifted and residents began to return to their homes. In all 8,900 acres of land were burned.Officials said they were grateful to the donations already made by the community.The county commissioners released a statement saying, "our thanks for all of the generous offers from so many caring people across our great state and country."
Donations to assist the victims of the Ordway fire can be made to:Crowley County Community Foundation In care of First National Bank of Ordway PO Box 278 Ordway, CO 81063Please write "Crowley County Fire Relief Fund" on the memo line.
In Fort Carson, a fire burned more than 14 square miles and forced the evacuation of people living near the Army base. A pilot was killed as his single-engine air tanker crashed near a 9,600-acre blaze.Firefighters have about 10 percent of the blaze contained, but it nearly quadrupled in size overnight, base spokesman Capt. Gregory Dorman said. Two shelters were set up at the post and another at a nearby community college to house the evacuees.A third fire in Carbondale, in the western Colorado mountains, injured one person and damaged at least two homes.Firefighters lifted an evacuation order in Carbondale and began cleanup operations, said Carbondale Fire Chief and Incident Commander Ron Leach."Every firefighter loves to says that the fire is out, but not every fire chief can say we did it all and no one got hurt," said Leach.All three fires broke out after a wetter than normal winter was followed by a dry March. Much of the state was under a National Weather Service red flag warning Tuesday, signifying high fire danger due to the winds.
Three Killed Fighting FireSgt. Terry Devore (right) and Officer John Schwartz (left) volunteered with the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department but worked as corrections officers with the nearby Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility.
Volunteer firefighters John Schwartz, 38, and Terry Devore, 30, died when their fire truck plunged into a ravine under a bridge that had been damaged by flames. It wasn't immediately clear if the bridge collapsed while the pair were on it or had fallen earlier. Schwartz and Devore were corrections officers at a state prison outside Ordway and members of the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department. Schwartz is survived by three children and Devore is survived by a wife and four children. The Fort Carson blaze, about 60 miles south of Denver, was only 10 percent contained by midday Wednesday, forcing as many as 800 people to leave their homes. The cause was unknown. Two shelters were set up at the Army post and a third at a nearby community college for evacuees.
A single-engine plane crashed after dumping fire-retardant slurry on the blaze Tuesday, killing the pilot, Gert Marais, 42, of Fort Benton, Mont., said Fort Carson spokesman Maj. Sean Ryan. Marais worked for a Sterling, Colo., company that supplies aerial firefighting services to the Colorado State Forest Service, Ryan said. The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.