A blazing wildfire in Pueblo County forced evacuations of nearly 1200 people in the region of Beulah, southern Colorado on October 3, 2016. The wildfire broke out on Monday afternoon in more than 3000 acres of land and by night time the fire increased due to strong winds and dry conditions. Later an evacuation of the entire Beulah region was ordered after 10 pm on Monday night.
The wildfire not only caused mass evacuation but also destroyed important structures amounting to seven in total, which included a post office and a school. The evacuation was to be carried out overnight. Sheriff Kirk M. Taylor announced the evacuation which brought the total number of people evacuated to 1,950. He also recalled that there are proofs in their history that the Beulah Hill fire moves quickly, reduces visibility and cuts off all escape routes without any little notice. It is best to evacuate when the fire allows you to evacuate. The wildfire laid down for the evening on Monday but the threat was expected to continue till Tuesday morning. So it was natural with the nature of the fire that it was best to evacuate in the night when there was a chance allowed.
The fire was first spotted in the east of Beulah near Colorado Highway 78 at around 12:30 pm, which damaged around 3,000 acres. Therefore by 6:30 pm in the evening evacuations were ordered for about 57 people, then in the following two hours more evacuations were announced. Later after evacuations for two hours, the Pueblo Community Joint Information Center announced that a total of 507 residences and 1,250 people had been evacuated. The seven destructed structures initially could not be clearly figured out whether they were burned homes or other structures. However, no injuries were reported.
As the winds continued to blow the fire both north and south of Colorado Highway 78, the National Weather Service lifted the red flag warning for Pueblo County around 7pm in the evening as the winds decreased in the next couple of hours as informed by meteorologist Stan Rose. On the contrary, Pueblo County Emergency Services reported the winds still pushed the fire in a southeasterly direction even at 8 pm in the evening. That being said, everyone was alerted of the chances of the wind kicking up again on Tuesday to up to gusts 20 mph by the National Weather Service’s meteorologist Stan Rose.
To take control of the wildfire the sheriff’s office had requested for air support to fight the fire and the rest of the fire crews to handle fire on the ground throughout the night. The Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control informed they would be sending their multi-mission aircraft to aid in the firefight. The aircraft did some inspection but the wind conditions made it next to impossible to fight the fire from above. Several firefighting agencies such as Beulah Fire, Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Services, West Park Fire, Pueblo West Fire, Pueblo City Fire and the South Metro Fire Rescue responded to firefighting.
The US Postal Service shut down the local post office, called off all its carriers and briefed that it would reassess its decision on Tuesday. The Beulah Elementary/Middle school too evacuated and cancelled its classes for Tuesday.
The evacuation center for all the evacuees was set up at Roncalli STEM Roncalli gym, where they spent the night. The falling ash from the wildfire led to a health advisory for Pueblo County, especially the ones who suffered from ill respiratory conditions were advised to stay inside. The Colorado Department of Transportation closed down the Colorado Highway 78 indefinitely.
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