UPDATE: Beulah Hill Fire almost fully contained as remaining evacuees return home

By  | 

BEULAH, Colo. (KKTV) UPDATE (10/9, 12:45 p.m.):
Pueblo School District 70 has officially confirmed Beulah School will be open Monday as scheduled.

UPDATE (10/8, 9:20 p.m.):
A donation center will open Sunday for those impacted by the fire. The donation center will be at the Colorado Building at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo. Donations are accepted from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Oct. 9 to Oct. 16.

According to the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security Emergency Management, the following items are needed:

• Food
• New clothing and underwear-all sizes
• Paper towels/products
• New bath towels
• New bed linens and new pillows
• Baby diapers
• Cleaning supplies
• Laundry supplies
• Pet supplies
• Gloves
• Trash bags
• Tools
• Pots and pans
• Sunscreen
• Hygiene products
• Gift cards

The following items will NOT be accepted:

• No appliances
• No mattresses
• No furniture
• No home cooked food
• No used clothing or shoes
• No electronics

If families are in need of bulk food items and clean-up kits, they are available at the Disaster Assistance Center, which is also at the 4-H Auditorium at the Colorado State Fairgrounds.

To donate your time or money to the relief fund, click here.
UPDATE (10/8, 1:50 p.m.):
Beulah residents no longer need a permit to return to their home following the fire.

The American Red Cross has closed the shelter that was located at the Southwest Motors Event Center at the Colorado State Fairgrounds today for fire evacuees. The shelter was open all week to help the evacuees.
UPDATE (10/8, 1:20 p.m.):The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office is now reporting the fire is 95 percent contained. They say smoke and ash clouds are still visible in burned out areas.
UPDATE (10/7, 6:20 p.m.): The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office is now reporting the fire is 90 percent contained.
UPDATE (10/7, 3:20 p.m.): The Pueblo City-County Health Department posted tips on their Facebook page on how to safely clean following the Beulah Hill fire.

-Wear gloves, long sleeved shirts, and long pants to avoid ash touching your skin while cleaning.
-If ash does get on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible with water and soap.
-Clean with soap and water. If using other products follow the directions on the container.
- Wash ash off of household pets.
-Do not allow children to play in the burn debris or ash.
- Wash ash from toys before allowing children to play with them.
UPDATE (10/7, 12:27 p.m.): The Beulah Hill Fire is winding down, but far from over, officials said Friday.

All remaining evacuees are being allowed to go home Friday afternoon and Beulah School is hoping to open its doors to students again Monday. Things in Beulah Valley are making a slow return to normal, but authorities cautioned the public that it did not mean fire fighting was done.

"The biggest chunk of the fire is over, but there is still a lot of active fire," Incident Commander Shane Greer said at Friday's news briefing. "The event is not over by any means."

That said, Greer and Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor said they were thrilled with the progress firefighters had made between Monday and Friday. The fire had not grown in the last 24 hours, and Greer said he expected more containment by the end of the day. The fire is currently 75 percent contained.

Unlike Monday, when conditions worked against firefighters, Greer said the weather Friday would be near-perfect for battling the remaining flames and hot spots.

Taylor and Greer said they were thrilled all of the evacuees could go home.

"Fire is something we live with here in Colorado. We try to minimize it as much as possible. We are just happy everyone is getting home."
UPDATE (10/7, 12:17 p.m.): The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office released information about weekend dumpster sites for returning evacuees.

Dumpster sites
Courtesy: Pueblo County Sheriff's Office

UPDATE (10/7, 9:02 a.m.): All Beulah residents will be allowed home beginning at 1 Friday afternoon.

Like returning evacuees on previous days, those going home Friday will need to go to the 4-H building on the state fairgrounds and pick up a re-entry permit. Those will be available beginning at 10 a.m.

Full release from the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office:

With significant progress made in the containment of the Beulah Hill Fire, the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office, Beulah Volunteer Fire Department, and the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team Black are allowing all Beulah residents to return to their homes beginning at 1 p.m. today (October 7, 2016).

All residents will be required to get a re-entry permit at the 4-H Building on the Colorado State Fairgrounds. Processing of the re-entry permits will begin at 10 a.m. Proof of address will be required to obtain a permit.

No residents will be allowed back to their homes without a re-entry permit. Permits will be required for residents to be allowed past law enforcement traffic control points, which remain in effect today.

Those returning to their homes will need to be cautious of several things. Extended power outages will likely have resulted in spoiled food. First responder traffic is and remains heavy on the roadways inside the evacuation area and it will continue. Please drive slow and stay aware. Anyone with known respiratory illnesses, should consider that heavy smoke will remain in the area and could cause breathing difficulties.

Although we are facilitating the permitting process early, residents WILL NOT be allowed to return to their homes until 1 p.m.

Under an executive order from Gov. John Hickenlooper, people who lost their homes will get grants of up to $5,000 from the state's disaster emergency fund.

UPDATE (10/7, 2:30 a.m.): The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office is now reporting the fire is 75 percent contained.

UPDATE (10/6, 4:55 p.m.): Families who live on 3R Road, South of Highway 78 and Signal Mountain Subdivision, are allowed to return home. Those evacuations are lifted. Starting at 9 p.m., residents will be allowed home.

UPDATE (10/6, 11:09 a.m.): A CDOT excavator, in a "tragic accident," may have started the Beulah Hill Fire.

The worker was using an excavator for a planned CDOT project Monday, right at the moment when winds were at a sustained 25-35 mph in three different directions.

"The epicenter [of the winds] was down in that canyon where the CDOT worker was," said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor.

Officials said the worker tried hard to get the spark out.

"He's just sick about it," said Taylor.

Officials otherwise took an upbeat tone at the news conference Thursday morning, stating that firefighters were making significant progress and voicing their expectation that more containment gains would be made Thursday. The fire currently stands at 50 percent containment.
UPDATE (10/6, 11:06 a.m.): The following homeowners will be able to get a re-entry permit beginning at noon Thursday.

· Southeast section of Waterbarrel Rd

· North Siloam Road (and all tributary roads from Siloam) – entrance HWY 96 to Siloam

· North North Creek Road up to North Creek Cutoff – entrance from Custer County side ONLY

UPDATE (10/6, 5:38 a.m.): More people will be returning home Thursday, as the Beulah Hill Fire burns into its fourth day.

So far, only evacuees in the Mountain Shadows Estates and Twin Buttes subdivisions are getting to return home. Homeowners living in those two neighborhoods who didn't return home Wednesday will get the chance Thursday beginning at 10 a.m.

Same as Wednesday, returning residents will be required to get a permit at the Colorado State Fairgrounds 4-H building. Residents will need to take proof of address and auto registration with them.

UPDATE (10/5, 5:45 p.m.): The fire is now 50 percent contained. It has burned 5,227 acres.

UPDATE (10/5, 3:15 p.m.): Two neighborhoods evacuated will be allowed to return home Wednesday afternoon. Re-entry for homeowners in the Mountain Shadows Estates and Twin Buttes will begin at 4 p.m. Residents will be required to get a permit at the Colorado State Fairgrounds 4-H building. Residents will need to take proof of address and auto registration with them.

UPDATE (10/5, 12:03 p.m.): Beulah School will remain closed Thursday. D-70 says any Beulah student who attends a different D-70 school will also be excused from class.

UPDATE (10/5, 10:29 a.m.): Due to better mapping, law enforcement say the Beulah Hill Fire is smaller than believed -- 4,845 acres versus the 5,000-5,500 reported Tuesday.

There is still no containment, but the 300 firefighters battling the wildfire hope to begin going on the offense Wednesday. Efforts had previously been focused on structure protection.

There's currently no word on when evacuees will be allowed to return home. The incident commander said his mission is to get people home as quickly and safely as possible, but this will not happen until it's safe to do so. Right now, it's not.

Once it is safe to do so, residents will be allowed back in their homes under a phased re-entry plan.

There's a public meeting over the fire Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Roncalli STEM Academy on 4202 Highway 78 in Pueblo.

Despite reports to the contrary, the Pueblo County sheriff says Beulah School and the Beulah post office are not among the eight structures and six outbuildings destroyed in the fire.
UPDATE (10/5, 6:23 a.m.): Map of the Beulah Hill Fire, as compared to Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

Beulah Hill Fire
Credit: Pueblo County Emergency Services

Current map of Beulah Hill Fire. The area in yellow is under an evacuation order, and the area in pink is the estimated burn area:

Beulah Hill Fire
Credit: Pueblo County Emergency Services

UPDATE (10/5, 5:42 a.m.): Firefighters are hoping to get containment for the first time Wednesday, as the Beulah Hill Fire continues to burn near the town of Beulah.

The town remains under a mandatory evacuation order.

Some evacuees were initially reluctant to leave.

"I...argued with [the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office] once and said, 'No, I'm not going,'" said 20-year resident, Jack Bryant.

But when deputies came to his door again --

"I knew then it was time to get out. There was no question about it when you can see flames 20-30 feet above the trees."

Calmer weather Tuesday greatly aided crews in firefighting efforts, the opposite of Monday when strong wind gusts helped the fire balloon from 10 acres to thousands. Firefighters spent Tuesday working on structure protection, but with more firefighters arriving Wednesday, they hope to shift focus to containment efforts.

The next update from officials on the fire is expected at 10 a.m.
UPDATE (10/4, 4:15 p.m.):
The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office held a 4 p.m. news conference.

Officials say the fire has burned somewhere between 5,000 and 5,500 acres. The fire has grown about 300 to 500 acres since noon Tuesday.

Beulah schools will be closed again Wednesday.

No more evacuations have been ordered Tuesday. Eight structures and six outbuildings have been destroyed.

Right now 400 firefighters are on the scene.

The Pueblo YMCA at 3200 E. Spalding Ave. is opening up its facility to evacuees. It will be open from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Families can bring children for activities or if people need to shower.

UPDATE (10/4, 2:40 p.m.):
The Rocalli Middle School Shelter has been transferred to the Colorado State Fair events center. Evacuees can go to the Southwest Motors Events Center at the fairgrounds.

UPDATE (10/4, 12 p.m.):
The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office held a noon news conference.

Officials say the fire has burned 4,800 acres. The cause is still under investigation. The fire has grown in all directions at this point.

Right now, about 400 personnel are on scene. Crews from across the state are helping out.

Tuesday has been more successful due to the weather, although there still is a Red Flag Warning in effect, officials say.

The Pueblo County Sheriff says seven homes have been lost. Thankfully, no one has been injured.

More than 700 homes have been evacuated. More than 1,900 neighbors are out of their homes.

The sheriff added that crews are doing an assessment of the area right now. They should have a better idea Tuesday afternoon as to when homeowners can go back to their homes.

We know at least two aircraft are helping with the fire. There are two helicopters en route and at least two other single tankers en route. They will have eight helicopters or aircrafts fighting the fire by the end of the day.

The terrain varies in the area from grass and open plains to some steep canyons and rough country, crews say.

Right now they are working on protecting structures. Then they will focus on securing the perimeter.

Another briefing will be held at 4 p.m. We will keep you updated.

UPDATE (10/4, 11:45 a.m.):
There is conflicting information being reported at this time. The Colorado Office of Emergency Management is reporting the fire is now 8,000 acres, while the Joint Information Center, along with the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office, is still reporting 3,000 acres.

There is an update expected at noon that should address the size.
UPDATE (10/4, 9:20 a.m.):
According to the Pueblo County undersheriff, the fire is no longer spreading south and northwest.

No further structures have been lost at this time.

Fire crews say the high humidity overnight helped with firefighting efforts. Crews are being brought in from Denver and Douglas counties.

The evacuations are not expected to be lifted any time soon.

11 News is expecting the next update around noon Tuesday.
UPDATE (10/4, 7:30 a.m.):
The Red Cross says Roncalli Middle School and Southwest Motor Events Center remain open for shelter.

The 11 News crew on scene says Roncalli STEM Academy still has school in session while it is serving as a shelter area.

Right now, 30 people are registered at Roncalli Middle School, and four are registered at Southwest Motor Events Center.

Red Cross says most people seeking help from the shelter chose to sleep outside in their cars with their pets.

There is a free pet shelter available at the Pueblo Animal Services at 4600 Eagle Ridge Place in Pueblo. Red Cross says large animals can be taken to the Colorado State Fair through Gate 6.

For further information from the Red Cross, click here.
UPDATE (10/4, 4:45 a.m.):
Overnight, no additional structures have been lost. According to Fire Prevention Officer Dawn Sanchez, there has been minimal fire growth. The fire remains at 3,000 acres.

Aircraft will fly over around 10 a.m. to get a new estimate of the size.

Sanchez tells 11 News fire crews had to go door to door to evacuate because power is out in the area.

"We grabbed some, I guess the essentials, what we have to have, but you're never prepared for this," says evacuee Greg Jackson.

Additional fire crews, engines and aircraft will be brought in Tuesday morning.
UPDATE (10/3, 10:48 p.m.):
The remainder of Beulah Valley is being evacuated Monday night. Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor says it is necessary to move people to safety now while the routes are clear and the manpower is available.

"History has shown, the best time to evacuate is when the fire allows you to evacuate," Taylor said. "This fire has laid down for the evening, but with the threat expected to continue in the early morning Tuesday, the heavy fuel, the wind predictions, and the fire’s behavior demonstrates it is prudent to evacuate the remainder of the Beulah Valley tonight."

Taylor said the fire is on both sides of the valley.

"If either flank moves toward the valley, we may lose lives," Taylor said.

Evacuation shelters are now open at two locations. In addition to the shelter at Roncalli STEM Academy, a shelter for evacuees from the Beulah Hill Fire has been opened in the Southwest Motors Events Center at the Colorado State Fairgrounds.

For further information on evacuations, click here.
UPDATE (10/3, 8:44 p.m.):
The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office tells us the fire is 3,000 acres. They tell us the fire is spreading in two directions from Highway 78. On the southern side, the fire is moving toward 3R. Part of the fire is also going northwest towards North creek.
UPDATE (10/3, 6:23 p.m.):
The Pueblo County Sheriff's Office says the Beulah Hill Fire has burned an estimated 2,400 acres. At least seven structures have been destroyed. The fire is moving southeast and is burning on both the north and south sides of Highway 78.

The town of Beulah and North Creek are on a pre-evacuation order.

Road closures in effect include Highway 78 at Siloam Road and 3R Road at North Signal Mountain.

UPDATE (10/3, 5:44 p.m.):
A public phone line has been established at 719-583-4640 for the Beulah Hill Fire.

UPDATE (10/3, 4:29 p.m.) Several structures have been destroyed in a wildfire that started burning Monday afternoon near the town of Beulah. The fire has burned 1,000 acres. Authorities say the fire has split in two and is headed in different directions. The fire is moving quickly.

Eighty-seven homes, several businesses including the post office and two schools have been evacuated. It's unclear what the structures are that burned.

Thick smoke filled the air about a mile away from the fire, giving the sky an orange tinge as evacuees rushed away from the area.

"We were just coming home from Pueblo, and I actually thought I was getting pulled over because I saw the sheriff behind me, and then I saw the smoke," one evacuee told 11 News.

The fire was first reported around 1 p.m. as a 7-10 acre wildfire burning north of Highway 78. The sheriff's office says strong winds and dry conditions are helping to fuel it.

Current evacuations
-2-mile radius around the 8300 block of Highway 78, including 3R Road
-Beulah Elementary and Beulah Middle School

-Those living with in a 2-mile radius of Beulah proper
- The area of Northcreek Rd.

"Grabbed the dog, got the few things we could grab," another evacuee told 11 News. "We have no idea what's going on. All we know is [the firefighters] are trying to get it under control, but it's just burning so fast.

Evacuated residents can go to Roncalli Middle School in Pueblo. Small animals can be taken to the Pueblo Animal Services on 4600 Eagle Ridge Place, and large evacuated animals can be taken to the Colorado State fairgrounds. Students from the two evacuated schools were taken to Pleasant View Middle School in Pueblo.

"I knew the school would take care of things and they would find a way to keep the kids safe," says one parent of an evacuated student. "The principal and everybody there at the school is just fantastic."

School has been cancelled Tuesday for all Beulah students, including those who attend District 70 schools outside Beulah.

Meteorologist Jessica Lebel says that there are wind gusts above 40 mph in the Beulah area, and that throughout southern Colorado, the combination of warm temperatures, low humidity and dry vegetation from lack of significant moisture as of late have made conditions ripe for high fire danger.

The state health department has issued a health advisory for Pueblo County due to poor air quality, caused by falling ash.