Fire in Bent County now 80 percent contained

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BENT COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - A fire burning in Bent County is now 80 percent contained following favorable weather conditions Sunday.

The fire now measures at 1,600 acres. The size increase (it was estimated at 500 acres Saturday) is largely due to better mapping, Stwalley said. There was a little growth Saturday night into Sunday morning, according to Bent County Emergency Manager Rick Stwalley.

The fire has been burning nearly four full days, having started Thursday evening in a riverbed near the Bent County Correctional Facility. The fire quickly spread; firefighters who had been released from the scene late Thursday night had to return just a few hours later for structure protection.

By Friday morning, the fire was estimated at 300-400 acres and several homes were evacuated. The fire scorched more acreage during the day Friday and an emergency was declared for the county.

All evacuations were lifted around 9 Saturday morning. One of the homeowners who evacuated told 11 News he was old hand at wildfires.

"In the 20 years we've been here, the river has been on fire four or five times," Bryan Simmons said. "So we're familiar with the drill. It's not an uncommon event to have fire on the river bottom down here."

Simmons took his livestock to a neighbor's property about a mile away.

"We've got one of the best fire departments anywhere. Best volunteer fire department, they are top-notch. Then there are a lot of other local fire departments that showed up to lend support, we are blessed, really blessed to have those folks here. They take care of us."

The fire fighting effort has been spearheaded by multiple volunteer agencies, including Hasty/McClave, Las Animas and Cheraw. The La Junta Fire Department has also sent an engine. Two helicopters flew to the scene Friday afternoon and began making water drops.

Saturday, the American Legion District 1 collected donations of water to help firefighters battling the blaze. In just a couple of hours, they had two pickup trucks full of water and Gatorade.