Firefighters Continue To Battle Southern Colorado Wildfires

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KELO Wildfire Colorado

More than a 1,000 firefighters are battling smoke and massive flames from wildfires out in the west.     

The 416 fire in southern Colorado threatens several communities and has already burned 32,000 acres. Omar Villafranca with CBS News is near Durango, Colorado with more. 

Two major wildfires continue to burn in Colorado… tearing through dry brush amid severe drought conditions. Despite the efforts of more than a thousand fire-fighters… officials say they have no idea when they’ll get the larger fire called “the 416” under control.

“Everybody who’s involved in this suppression effort, they’re working in really really extreme, complex terrain — hot, dry windy with the cards you know stacked against them most days,” Incident Commander Todd Pechota said. 

More than 2,000 homes have been evacuated since this fire began on June first. Hundreds of people were allowed back, but some say the threat of thunderstorms this weekend is causing them to stay away. Desiree Champlin is choosing to remain in a tent outside a Red Cross shelter with her son and seven-month old baby.

“We are just kind of waiting to see what this big storm does, cuz we are kind of worried that with the flashflood that’s predicted, it could cause a mudslide,” Champlin said. 

Fire fighters are on the lookout for any changes in the weather or wind patterns that could increase the fire threat to any nearby structures.

“They’re doing an awesome job. They’re working hard ya know they’re giving 110 percent to meet the objectives,” Pechota said. “Most importantly, again no structures lost, no accidents and injuries and that’s a good thing.”

Omar Villafranca: How long are you guys expecting to be here?
Pechota: We’ll be here two weeks.
Omar Villafranca: At least two weeks until it’s over or contained?
Pechota: Containment is a long way out.

The good news is that there are storms in the forecast but crews here are worried about lightning which could spark a new fire. Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to visit the Durango area
to try to get the word out that despite the fire, this tourist area is open for business. 

Among the hundreds of firefighters in Colorado, are several crews from South Dakota.

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