Update: Parkdale Canyon Fire Now 85% Contained

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The Parkdale Canyon fire burning near the Royal Gorge is 85 percent contained. Officials say fire crews are making progress on the fire, now estimated at 629 acres, and they expect full containment by Friday.

Power has now been restored to 70 homes in the area. Area attraction, Buckskin Joe's, reopened Wednesday. Thursday, all evacuation orders were rescinded.

The Fremont County Sheriff's office now says the fire was human-caused.

Highway 50 is once more open in both directions through the fire zone.

The fire started at separate ignition points along the railroad tracks near Parkdale in the Royal Gorge Monday afternoon. The fire is burning west of the Royal Gorge Bridge.

While the terrain is trecherous enough to make fighting the fire difficult, the vegetation fueling the fire is compounding it. Pinon Juniper trees burn very quickly and with extreme heat. Firefighters are wary of fires spreading through these kinds of trees due to the danger they pose.

Pinon Junipers also frequently throw embers when they burn, and when picked up by the wind they can spread a fire very quickly. Because of this, several structures have been lost. A barn and a house were completely destroyed. Another barn and home were damaged.

The woman who lost a home is Fremont County Coroner Dorothy Twellman. She tells 11 News that even though she lost her home and her barn, she was able to save her horses. Dr. Twellman says she built that home 25 years ago and is devastated.

Investigators are aggressively pursuing leads to figure out what caused the fire. They're also actively attempting to increase their containment of the fire by searching for hotspots. "You walk the fire ground and you feel for heat. It takes alot of people, and there are alot of good crews out there doing that right now," explained Brett Haberstick, one of the firefighters helping with the fire.

Businesses, residents and livestock from the Royal Gorge north five miles up from Highway 9 and also County Road 69 and up and also County Road 61, all were evacuated Monday afternoon. Fire officials also evacuated Buckskin Joe's, Royal Gorge, and 8 Mile Hill along County Road 3A.

The Bureau of Land Management reported that calls went out to 177 businesses and residences notifying them about the evacuation.
Jeannie Martin, who lives two miles near the intersection of Highway 9 and Highway 50, described the fire in the early afternoon hours, "I could see big huge pine trees going up, you could see the flames from our house, it was just devastating! Just the whole mountainside was covered in flames."

The costs of the fire to date is $977,729. The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Stay with KKTV 11 News for the latest.

Picture taken from Royal Gorge Bridge & Park