Yurt found destroyed in 117 Fire; brings total of homes lost to 24

(KKTV)
Published: Apr. 17, 2018 at 1:40 PM MDT
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UPDATE (4/24):

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said in a meeting Tuesday that a yurt was destroyed in the fire, bringing the total of homes destroyed in the fire to 24.

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UPDATE (4/21, 10:25 a.m.):

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office sent an update from the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team Black Saturday morning.

In the release, they stated the 117 Fire was human-caused. However, the exact details of how it started were not yet released. The fire burned about 42,795 acres. The Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District said it is the fifth largest fire in Colorado history.

At 6 a.m. Saturday, the command was transferred back to the Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control.

Crews said yesterday’s rain helped firefighters as they moved heavy fuels farther into the burned area and were able to put out heated areas hidden near containment lines. Firefighters will continue to monitor the area.

Again, crews warned residents in the area to be careful when returning home. The incident team said white ash on the ground might indicate deep pockets where roots and ground vegetation have burned and may be continuing to burn below ground level. They also said shallow root systems have burned and standing dead trees may fall down, especially in high winds or when loaded with heavy snow.

Smoke and blowing ash will still be visible for a while. Smoldering piles may include plastics or other materials that produce toxic smoke. Crews remind residents to please avoid breathing smoke directly from smoldering areas.

As stated below, on Saturday from 9-11 a.m., residents affected by the fire can go to Hanover High School at 17050 S. Peyton Hwy. Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado will provide food and Discover Goodwill will have vouchers and gift cards available. Red Cross will also be there to help families.

Other resources available include:

• Hanover Outreach Community Pantry: Will provide food and other needed items. Contact Terry Siewiyumptewa (“Ms. Terry”) at 719-683-4611 or go to the Hanover Outreach Community Pantry Facebook page. If you would like to volunteer for the Hanover Outreach Community Pantry please let Ms. Terry know.

• God’s Pantry Ministries: They will have someone on-site 24 hours until Monday, April 23 at 5 p.m. providing food/ clothing and more. Go to 102 N. Main St., Fountain, CO, 80817 or call 719-382-0643; Hours are 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

• American Red Cross: Call 719-785-2768 for immediate assistance and to speak with a caseworker for help with recovery from fire through Red Cross or other local resources 719-785-2768

• Mexican Consulate in Denver: Mexican Nationals in the fire area can call 303-667-8657 to speak to the Mexican Consulate and receive further assistance

• El Paso County: Go to www.elpasoco.com for a fire update and for information about all El Paso County services

El Paso County plans to have a town hall in the near future to address questions, but that date has not been set yet.

The county is also still warning of potential

Everyone in El Paso and Teller counties are also reminded to register for the Emergency Notification System. There are currently less than 44,800 accounts with about 260,000 homes in the two counties.

to receive alerts via email, phone call or as a text message. People can also call 719-785-1971 to sign up.

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UPDATE (4/20, 9 a.m.):

The 117 Fire is now estimated at 42,795 acres. Twenty-three homes were destroyed, with a handful of them vacant. There were also several outbuildings burned, but those final numbers have not yet been released. According to the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, it is the fifth largest fire in Colorado history.

By Thursday evening, crews were able to complete the containment line around the fire, deeming it 100 percent contained.

Overnight into Friday, firefighters monitored and extinguished hotspots and will continue to do so during the day. Residents can expect to see blowing ash and occasional smoke in the coming days.

During a press conference Friday morning, officials thanked the community and first responders for their continued efforts.

On Saturday from 9-11 a.m., residents affected by the fire can go to Hanover High School at 17050 S. Peyton Hwy. Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado will provide food and Discover Goodwill will have vouchers and gift cards available. Red Cross will also be there to help families. They continue to urge those who were affected to call 719-575-8888. Right now, they have only assisted eight families.

Red Cross warned residents that because of rain and snow in the forecast, to watch for flash flooding potential, as it's higher after a fire.

El Paso County is asking residents to visit their website for guidance on cleanup and recommended actions as they return, including getting a tetanus shot if residents haven't been vaccinated in the last five years.

They also warned those affected to throw out any perishable food that was left in their refrigerator, as there were power outages during the height of the fire. They recommend throwing out any food that may have been exposed to the fire or toxic chemicals. The county suggested calling insurance agents as soon as possible to start taking care of any claims.

Other resources available include:

• Hanover Outreach Community Pantry: Will provide food and other needed items. Contact Terry Siewiyumptewa (“Ms. Terry”) at 719-683-4611 or go to the Hanover Outreach Community Pantry Facebook page. If you would like to volunteer for the Hanover Outreach Community Pantry please let Ms. Terry know.

• God’s Pantry Ministries: They will have someone on-site 24 hours until Monday, April 23 at 5 p.m. providing food/ clothing and more. Go to 102 N. Main St., Fountain, CO, 80817 or call 719-382-0643; Hours are 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday.

• American Red Cross: Call 719-785-2768 for immediate assistance and to speak with a caseworker for help with recovery from fire through Red Cross or other local resources 719-785-2768

• Mexican Consulate in Denver: Mexican Nationals in the fire area can call 303-667-8657 to speak to the Mexican Consulate and receive further assistance

• El Paso County: Go to www.elpasoco.com for a fire update and for information about all El Paso County services

El Paso County plans to have a town hall in the near future to address questions, but that date has not been set yet.

Starting Saturday at 6 a.m., the Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 Incident Management Team Black which has been overseeing operations, will hand the lead over back to local officials.

Residents were reminded to continue to give firefighters space as they work to knock down any remaining flames.

The county is also still warning of potential

Everyone in El Paso and Teller counties are also reminded to register for the Emergency Notification System. There are currently less than 44,800 accounts with about 260,000 homes in the two counties.

to receive alerts via email, phone call or as a text message. People can also call 719-785-1971 to sign up.

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UPDATE (4/19, 9:30 p.m.):

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office said the 117 Fire is 100 percent contained and all evacuations have been lifted.

The cause is still under investigation.

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UPDATE (4/19, 2:30 p.m.):

Two nonprofits are providing assistance to people impacted by the 117 Fire.

El Paso County announced on Thursday that Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado will have food for those impacted by the destructive blaze and Discover Goodwill is providing vouchers and gift cards to Goodwill Stores. The resources and relief will be available at Hanover High School, 17050 S. Peyton Highway, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Hanover Outreach Community Pantry is also providing food and other needed items. You can call 719-683-4611 for more information.

God's Pantry Ministries will have someone on-site 24 hours a day through Monday, April 23 at 5 p.m. providing food and clothing. You can go to 102 N. Main Street in Fountain or call 719-382-0643 for more information.

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UPDATE (4/19, 9:30 a.m.):

Most of the 117 Fire has been reduced to smoldering areas, officials said Thursday but cautioned with the strong wind in the afternoon forecast, they were not out of the woods yet.

A perimeter map showing the areas contained and the areas still actively burning was released just before the Thursday morning news briefing. It can be found at the bottom of this article.

All mandatory evacuations are still in effect. The Red Cross is closing its shelter at Fountain Valley Baptist Church, but will still be offering assistance to those affected. To reach the Red Cross, call 719-785-2768.

Officials confirmed some pets and livestock were killed in the fire but did not have an exact number.

Of the 23 homes lost in the fire, officials say six were vacant. They had previously said seven.

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UPDATE (4/19, 7:30 a.m.):

The 117 Fire is now 60 percent contained and has not grown in more than 24 hours.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has not lifted evacuations as of this time.

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UPDATE (4/18, 5:15 p.m.):

The 117 Fire is now 25 percent contained and has destroyed 23 homes. Seven of those homes were vacant. A press conference was held Wednesday evening.

The fire acreage remains at just under 41,000 acres. It has not grown since the last update at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Right now, 16 families are displaced. The Red Cross is asking families to contact them if they evacuated. Evacuations are still in place at this time.

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office says they are fairly certain they know the origin of the blaze. They have gotten lots of tips on a potential cause.

As of this time, there have been no injuries reported. Around 200 firefighters are currently battling the blaze.

Deputies expect to have another update Thursday morning.

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UPDATE (4/18, 1 p.m.):

Mandatory evacuations remain in effect Wednesday in much of southeast El Paso County as firefighters struggle to get the upper-hand on a large grass fire.

The blaze, tabbed the 117 Fire, sparked Tuesday afternoon near I-25 and mile marker 117 and almost immediately exploded in size. The evacuation area expanded just as rapidly, with only a handful of homes under a mandatory evacuation at 2 p.m. multiplying to about 300 affected residents less than three hours later.

Because of the fire, Hanover schools will be closed for a second day on Thursday.

According to a new estimate Wednesday afternoon, the fire has scorched nearly 41,000 acres and is between 5-10 percent contained.

'A real extreme fire day'

Fierce winds helped spark fires across the state Tuesday, robbing El Paso County of desperately-needed resources when the 117 Fire blew up.

"We have multiple fires in the region," said Deputy Fire Marshal Jim Schanel. "We've had fires in Douglas County, up Rampart Range Road, Arizona, New Mexico, Pueblo County. What's happened is we have an extreme drain on resources. Even though the fire is moving very quickly, we called for help right away and it isn’t available. So we’re working with the resources that we have. It’s limited, which makes it very challenging."

And as the fire consumed more and more acres, firefighters were forced into a ground fight.

"We've got high winds, which makes it unsafe to fly with Bambi Buckets, the water buckets that they trail below the aircrafts," El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder said late Tuesday afternoon.

The speed the fire grew created life-threatening conditions for an evacuating populace and the men and women battling the fire.

"We've had some close calls," Schanel said.

"It was moving so quickly as we were trying to evacuate people that we were getting trapped," Elder said. "We had a fire engine that -- didn't get destroyed, but it got burned. A couple of firefighters had some smoke inhalation; we lost a patrol car yesterday just trying to get people through."

At times, the fire was moving faster than the firetrucks racing to put it out.

"I had one deputy report to me that he was going 35 miles an hour eastbound on Hanover Road and the flames were actually going faster than he was," Elder said.

A few people sustained minor injuries, as well as some animals. The sheriff's office said Wednesday that some livestock were believed to have been killed.

Ten homes were destroyed Tuesday. Elder confirmed Wednesday afternoon two more burned early in the morning.

A FedEx driver found himself right in the thick of the fire while on a delivery run.

"The fire did jump to the house over here. It's burning parts of the yard right now," he told 11 News. "The owner is out there trying to turn dirt over. The fire department's actually bulldozing a fireline to stop it from jumping but it seems to be jumping in all different directions right now. ... It was close enough [to him] to feel the heat."

Hundreds evacuated

Roughly 300 residents were evacuated Tuesday afternoon from three areas of south El Paso County. The first section had a north boundary at Hanover Road, a south boundary at the El Paso/Pueblo county line, an east boundary at Finch Road and a west boundary at I-25.

A second area was west of Boone Road, east from South Peyton Highway, south from Squirrel Creek Road and north from Myers Road

A third area had a northern boundary at Sanborn Road, a west boundary at Boone Road, an east boundary at the El Paso/Lincoln county line and a southern boundary at the El Paso/Pueblo County line.

fire
Source: El Paso County Sheriff's Office

Though the mandatory evacuation order remains in place Wednesday, Elder said in a Wednesday morning news conference that law enforcement would not be stopping anyone who did go home. He cautioned, however, that returning home would be extremely dangerous for residents if the fire changed directions again, and would also be putting deputies at risk if they had to go back in and evacuate people again.

The fire crossed county lines Tuesday evening, placing the Pueblo Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant and an area of Pueblo County from the shared border with El Paso County to the 6000 block of Overton Road on a pre-evacuation notice. The Pueblo Chieftain, citing a spokesperson with the chemical facility, reported that the fire posed no immediate threat to the plant or the chemical stockpile stored there.

Hanover District 28 and Edison 54-JT are both closed Wednesday.

"I came home and they wouldn't let me through. I said, 'You have to let me through. ... My dogs are in the house, there's no one here.' And the sheriff said, 'Well, we have rescue people out there.' And I said, 'But they're in the house.' 'Well, we're going to have to kick the door down.' I said, 'Oh God, no, I've got chickens too!'" Cecilia Paintin said.

Paintin, who lives in an area not yet under an evacuation order, was eventually allowed back in her home, where she was nervously watching the fire when she spoke with 11 News.

"I saw earlier black smoke come up. ... Nothing but black. It's scary, very scary. I pray every day."

Near Paintin, another family could only watch helplessly as the fire engulfed their home. They told 11 News they heard about the fire and raced to their house -- but when they got there, it was already too late.

They asked 11 News to share their video so others could see how destructive and dangerous the 117 Fire is. The video can be seen above.

A reprieve Wednesday?

The wind Tuesday made it impossible to get aerial help or even just see how large of an area has burned.

"The 60 mph winds will not allow us to fly," Sheriff Elder said late Tuesday night. "We can't even fly the multi-mission aircraft to go and get a look at the size of this thing yet."

In a bit of serendipitous timing, Wednesday's forecast offers a one-day window of decreased fire danger before windy weather returns Thursday. Elder was hopeful firefighters could make a charge at the fire Wednesday.

"We are working with Fort Carson-- they've promised a big contingent. So [Wednesday] at 7 a.m. we are going to have air resources and water drops available, so we'll be deploying that. ... [Fort Carson] also agreed to stop training exercises tomorrow so they can devote resources to the fight. That's great news for us! As we move into that next operational period, we need to have as many fresh resources as we can available."

Elder was optimistic water drops would help firefighters get a handle on containment. Getting some eyes in the sky would also help crews get a better idea what they're dealing with -- how big the fire was and where they need to focus their lines of attack.

"I feel pretty confident that the areas that its burning are at least mostly grasslands, but there are some properties in that burn area," he said.

Resources for evacuees

Fountain Valley Baptist Church on 500 Alabama Ave. in Fountain has opened its doors to evacuees.

For information on the fire if you live in El Paso County, call 719-575-8888. If you live in Pueblo County you can call 719-583-6250 for more information.

WATCH: Officials give an update on the #117Fire: http://www.kktv.com/content/news/2-fires-burning-near-Hanover-pre-evacuation-notice-in-effect-480032343.html

Posted by KKTV 11 News on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

LIVE: Update on the 117 fire in El Paso County that has destroyed at least 10 structures. http://www.kktv.com/content/news/2-fires-burning-near-Hanover-pre-evacuation-notice-in-effect-480032343.html

Posted by KKTV 11 News on Tuesday, April 17, 2018