Firefighters battle strong winds to stop grass fire from reaching homes

Witnesses told 11 News the wind helped create tall flames and lots of visible smoke.
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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - Several families were forced to evacuate their homes Sunday afternoon after strong winds pushed a nearby grass fire within feet of structures.

The fire sparked in a riverbed behind Mohawk Road in east Pueblo and rapidly ballooned in size as the wind whipped relentlessly around it.

"If I were to guess, the winds today, we're talking about 25-45 mph gusts," said Capt. Woody Percival with the Pueblo Fire Department. "Once [the fire] started, it grew exponentially fast. Luckily, we had a quick response, and we do have it contained at this point."

"Flames were flying a good 30 feet in the air," witness Paul Arellano told 11 News. "... It was just like, gusting winds like when you fan a flame."

Homes in the 1800-2100 blocks of Mohawk Road were ordered to evacuate for a couple of hours as firefighters worked to contain the fire.

"My mom called and told me there was a fire. So all she did was look out the back window and there was all kinds of smoke ... so kinda scary because I wasn't home," said Michael Hernandez, whose mother evacuated.

With the wild wind, many evacuees feared firefighters wouldn't be able to get the fire under control before it claimed houses.

"I figured with the wind, they’ll never stop it. I didn’t see how they could stop it," Michael Garrison said.

Neighbors frantically loaded vehicles, expecting the worst.

"All these three blocks over here, everybody was unloading to get out of here. And of course I had two Brittanys in the back, hunting dogs, and I to get them out first, and then, everything else I just said, 'Just burn up, I guess,'" Garrison told 11 News.

A tremendous effort by firefighters halted the flames within 50 feet of homes.

"From what I understand we had one apartment building that had some damage to a deck. It was very minor and we got that put out," Percival said.

The fire scorched 6 acres between Mohawk and a nearby Target. The cause is still under investigation, but Percival said there are homeless camps in the area.

"The quick response today was a perfect example of why it’s important to be careful today. We were able to get it stopped today. Had we not been as quick on scene, I think we could have seen a different situation on our hands entirely," Percival said.