Firefighters ‘prevailed’ to rescue old Bent Fort as southeastern Colorado fires continue to burn | News

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Firefighters are celebrating a key victory even as they continued Thursday to battle two wildfires in southeastern Colorado that have scorched thousands of acres, destroyed structures and forced evacuations.

Firefighters were able to save Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a two-story adobe complex built in 1976 in the proud and accurate image of the major trading post that stood in the 1830s.

“It would have been a huge loss,” La Junta Fire Chief Brad Davidson told Gazette media partner KKTV. “As soon as I got here and saw it heading in this direction, I said to all my staff and my crews, I said, ‘We’re going to protect this building. And we prevailed, so I feel very lucky, and very lucky to have the staff that we had.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife said five wildfires erupted Tuesday in Bent and Otero counties, affecting three wildlife areas in the state. Oxbow and Fort Lyon were the hardest hit, each having at least 75% of their land burned.

The biggest fires in the area, however, are the Old Bent Fort Fire and the Fort Lyon River Fire, officials said. They burned 1,800 and 2,900 acres respectively, KKTV reported.

At least two structures were destroyed by the fires – although firefighters were able to save homes. One owner, Rudy Estrada, told KKTV that “I still have a place to live”.

The fire at Old Bent Fort started on Tuesday morning and at one point was thought to have been knocked down, but high winds caused it to burst into the evening, an emergency management office official said. from Bent County to KKTV.

The second fire east of Las Animas broke out later in the day Tuesday and has burned thousands of acres. As of Wednesday afternoon, that fire was 50% contained, KKTV reported. He forced residents of Fort Lyon to evacuate, but they returned early Wednesday.

A small portion of the John Martin Reservoir area sustained minimal damage, with only 5% burned.

The Fort Lyon State Wildlife Area suffered heavy losses with 80% of its 523 acres burned, including wetland habitat for the endangered eastern black rail, a type of bird.

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