Wildfire Spreads Through Southern Colorado

A fast-moving wildfire has burned more than 8,000 acres in southern Colorado. The blaze is threatening about 750 homes and other structures in and around the small ranching community of Beaulah, Colo.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

In southern Colorado, a fast-moving wildfire has burned more than 8,000 acres and forced the evacuation of about 5,000 people who live nearby. The blaze is threatening 750 homes and other structures in and around the ranching community of Beulah. NPR's Jeff Brady joins us from Pueblo, Colorado.

Jeff, what's the scene where you are now?

JEFF BRADY reporting:

Well, I'm at the Colorado state fairgrounds. This has become sort of a center point for folks who want to donate water and food, and it's also--since they have stalls here, it's a place where people are bringing their livestock. This fire is in a rural community, and I talked to a couple, Bob and Jodi Gomer(ph), just a little while ago. They have 15 horses. They almost had to leave them as they were sort of rushed out of this valley where the fire is located. But they were able to bring the horses, they're here at the Colorado state fairgrounds, and a lot of other people have also brought their livestock here.

CHADWICK: So what can you tell us about the path of the fire and what kind of an area is burning?

BRADY: Well, this is in a narrow canyon. It's got steep walls. It's been very difficult for firefighters to get in there. They have about nine planes and helicopters dropping retardant on the fire. But sometimes it's even difficult for them to drop their retardant on the fire because this fire is so big, it's creating so much smoke that it kind of creates its own weather system and it's difficult to fly in that. It's been traveling south. Yesterday, it tripled in size.

CHADWICK: Wow. Tell me--just help us understand exactly where is the fire within--Where's Pueblo and this town of Beulah in Colorado?

BRADY: Yeah, now Beulah is--I'm in Pueblo, Colorado, which is in southern Colorado, kind of the central part of the state near the border with New Mexico. Beulah is just about 30 miles west of here. And as I said before, it's a very remote area, but there are still quite a few people who live there and a lot of those people, of course, now are being evacuated.

CHADWICK: It's the mountain part of the state. When are the firefighters estimating they might be able to contain this fire or even control it?

BRADY: There is no estimate right now. It's way too early to make a prediction like that. They estimate that they have contained about 5 percent of the fire, so they have a long way to go. And the weather's not looking very good. It's dry right now. There's a 20 percent chance of rain, but you know, who knows if that's actually going to happen. But certainly, firefighters are keeping their fingers crossed.

CHADWICK: And any word on the cause of this fire, what got it going in the first place?

BRADY: They're pretty sure that it was a lightning-caused fire. We've had a lot of thunderstorms around here lately, and each time we have a thunderstorm, we see fires in the mountains. And, of course, we have more thunderstorms forecast, so we're probably going to see more fires.

CHADWICK: Well, more fires, more lightning, possibility anyway of some rain; that might help out there a little. NPR's Jeff Brady in Pueblo, Colorado.

Jeff, thanks very much for joining us on DAY TO DAY.

BRADY: My pleasure.

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CHADWICK: Stay with us on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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