Wildfire burns through fourth day
NEW CASTLE About 100 evacuees gathered in the Riverside Middle School gym Wednesday afternoon to hear whether they could go back to their Canyon Creek homes outside Glenwood Springs.The New Castle Fire, which started from a lightning strike Sunday evening, is threatening about 200 homes. A mandatory evacuation order is in effect for 90 homes in Canyon Creek, west of Glenwood Springs and east of New Castle.Electricity to the area was shut off Wednesday morning and would remain off until early evening as a safety measure, said Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.He said the evacuation order would remain and people should plan to spend another night away from home. He said he, too, lives in the cluster of homes alongside Interstate 70 in Canyon Creek. He and his wife voluntarily evacuated their home Tuesday.”I want to go home as badly as you do,” he said.
The fire was about 50 percent contained as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, said Karl Brauneis, public information officer for the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team. “We got around the hump, so to speak,” he said, adding that authorities will reassess the evacuation order Thursday.George and Ginny Morris left their Canyon Creek Estates home Tuesday. George Morris said a sheriff’s deputy came to the door to tell them to evacuate. He said they had plenty of time to pack. The couple decided to take “anything that couldn’t be replaced by money,” he said, including an irreplaceable collection of Native American figures.As with many of their neighbors, the Morrises found a place to stay with friends in Glenwood Springs and had offers from 10 others. When the order came, they were ready to go. “I have a fire background and I knew they weren’t screwing around,” he said. “I think when people are told to go, they should go.”
People have been allowed to return to their homes for good reasons, such as forgotten medication. But Vallario urged them to come back out. “If you refuse, you’re there at your own risk, and we may not be able to get in to rescue you,” he said.Winds remained strong and unpredictable throughout Wednesday, at times kicking up flames that were visible from Interstate 70. By Wednesday evening about 1,800 acres had burned, Brauneis said. Firefighters lit a back burn of about 1,000 yards along Canyon Creek Road to consume vegetation between the road and the fireline and to keep the fire from crossing the road to the homes on the east side.More than 200 firefighters, two heavy air tankers, two single-engine air tankers and four helicopters continued to pour water and fire retardant on the blaze.
“We have more aircraft on this fire than I have ever seen on any fire,” Vallario said, in part because no other major fires are burning in the West.”This is the number-one priority in the region for wildfire,” said Bureau of Land Management fire administrator Carl Mendanza.So far, the cost to fight the New Castle Fire stands at $600,000, which Garfield County and federal agencies will pay, Vallario said.One of the evacuees wondered how she and others would know when it was safe to return home. Vallario said roadblocks would be removed and word would go out via media. He’ll also give a personal signal. “I’ll be on my porch with my feet kicked up having a cold drink,” he quipped.The hot line to call for information about the New Castle Fire is (970) 309-0347 or (970) 319-9562.
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