ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. – At least five homes and four barns burned to the ground southeast of the town of Kiowa Sunday, as a blaze aided by high winds ripped through dry grass, posing a danger to residents and livestock in Elbert County.
Crews from numerous fire agencies were working to contain the Forest Ridge Fire in the area of County Road 118 and County Road 45, south of the town of Kiowa.
The fire broke out at around 10:15 a.m. and quickly spread due to the high winds and dry conditions.
Just before 4 p.m., the fire had grown to 375 acres in size and was 90 percent contained, according to the Elbert County Sheriff’s Office.
Officials said fire crews would remain in the area for several more hours to avoid any potential flare-ups.
“There have been no reported losses of life or livestock,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Officials said high wind conditions have prevented aid of requested air support in fighting the flames; however, ground crews from all over the south metro area responded to assist.
"Due to this rapid response, the fire was able to be contained quickly," the official said.
Mandatory evacuations, pre-evacuation notices sent out
The Elbert County Sheriff’s Office initially said residents between Maul Road and west of County Road 45, and between County Road 118 and County Road 110 were under mandatory evacuations.
They also said homes between Maul Road and County Road 45, and from Highway 86 to County Road 118 were under pre-evacuation notices. A Code Red alert had also been sent out to residents in the area, officials said.
Meanwhile, homes in the area between County Road 41 and Maul Road, and south of County Road 110 and County Road 102 were not under evacuation or pre-evacuation orders, but were told to be on alert should the fire shift position.
UPDATE TO EVACUATION AREA: Code Red has been lifted for residents north of CR 118 and east of CR 49.
— Shayne Heap (@SheriffHeap) March 4, 2018
By late Sunday afternoon, officials said evacuation zones remained in effect from County Road 45 to County Road 49, from County Road 118 to County Road 110. The closure of those roads was expected to last through the evening.
"After this time, the evacuation area will be changed to a pre-evacuation area," an official said on Twitter.
The area to the south of County Road 110 remained under pre-evacuation orders.
Just before 6 p.m., evacuation orders had been lifted for all residents in the affected areas, the sheriff's office said in a press release.
The Forest Ridge Fire appears to be moving east from its starting point and crews are dealing with 25 to 35 mph winds, according to the sheriff’s office.
The Elbert County Fairgrounds are open for people and their animals to evacuate to, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office said. The county does not currently need donations from the community at this time.
The cause of the fire remains unknown at this time.
Critical fire danger for Colorado extended into Monday
The National Weather Service warned early Sunday of critical wildfire conditions as warm and dry conditions return to the state.
The weather service issued red flag warnings for Sunday through 7 p.m. and again Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as southwest winds ahead of a cold front move to west/northwest, with gusts up to around 45 mph expected.
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