Thousands of acres burned in 2 wildfires near Las Animas

Bent's Fort Fire and Fort Lyon River Fire continue to burn on west and east sides of community
Fort Lyon Fire_Mickey Lucero
Posted at 2:47 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 21:24:35-04

Amid critical fire conditions, two wildfires — the Bent's Fort Fire and Fort Lyon River Fire — have burned thousands of acres in southern Colorado.

Both fires started Tuesday.

The National Weather Service said critical fire weather conditions are expected to last through Wednesday and Thursday in southern Colorado. A Red Flag Warning is in effect for Colorado Springs south to Trinidad, and east to the state border. The warnings will end around 7 p.m.

Critical Fire Weather April 13, 14, 2022

A Fire Weather Watch is also in effect through Thursday evening for strong winds and low humidity in southern El Paso, Pueblo, Huerfano, Crowley, Bent, and Kiowa counties, plus lower elevations of Las Animas County, according to the NWS.

These dry conditions will continue across southern Colorado into early next week, NWS said.

Below is the latest on the Bent's Fort Fire and Fort Lyon River Fire.

Bent's Fort Fire (west of Las Animas and east of La Junta)

The Bent's Fort Fire — also called Bent's Old Fort Fire — was initially reported at 2,200 acres Wednesday morning, according to the Otero County Sheriff's Office. La Junta Fire Department confirmed Thursday evening that, due to better mapping, the fire has burned 1,656 acres. As of Friday, the fire has burned 1,677 acres. It is 73 percent contained.

It is burning near Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site.

The sheriff's office said crews worked overnight and made some progress, but west-blowing wind on Wednesday was expected to pick up, which may increase fire activity.

On Tuesday, the sheriff's office said the fire was reignited from an earlier fire.

The historic site features a reconstructed 1840s adobe fur trading post where traders, trappers and tribe members would come together, site officials said.

Bent's Old Fort officials said the fire had been moving east Tuesday but a change in wind's direction changed around 8 p.m., causing the flames to move toward the fort. However, firefighters were able to save not only the structure, but the wagons and cannons outside of it.

Officials said Wednesday that all animals at the fort "are fine and seem to be unfazed by the fire event." The historic site closed Tuesday, and will remain closed for several days, due to this fire.

The La Junta Fire Department remains at the scene of this fire, as of Wednesday morning.

One of Hasty-McClave Fire Protection District's trucks was sent to help with this fire on Tuesday.

The fire burned across Oxbow State Wildlife Area, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. About 75% of the 410-acre state wildlife area burned, including a barn.

The fire temporarily closed US 50 between La Junta and Las Animas.

Fort Lyon River Fire (near northwest side of John Martin Reservoir State Wildlife Area)

The Fort Lyon River Fire has burned about 2,915 acres and is 55 percent contained as of Friday evening, according to the La Junta Fire Department.

According to Denver7's news partner KOAA, two homes have burned in this fire. One was not occupied.

Evacuations in Fort Lyon have been lifted.

On Tuesday, the Hasty-McClave Fire Protection District responded to the Fort Lyon River Fire after a request from fire officials already working at the blaze. Many members stayed to work at this fire, while crews in another truck traveled to Bent's Old Fort Fire.

The Colorado Department of Fire Prevention and Control also sent a couple engines to help quiet the fire.

The John Martin Reservoir State Wildlife Area near Fort Lyon is closed.

Other fires in southern Colorado:

  • A fire burning north of Cheraw in Otero County was contained around nightfall on Tuesday, according to KOAA
  • The Pueblo Fire Department said a wildland fire burned Sunday near PAWS for Life, an animal welfare group, east of Pueblo Boulevard and north of the Arkansas River. Some houses were initially threatened and an evacuation center was set up. PAWS evacuated dozens of animals from its facility. The fire grew to 25 acres and all evacuations have been lifted, according to KOAA
  • The Trinidad Fire Department said it responded to a 10-acre fire near the Highway 160 and Highway 350 bypass on Tuesday afternoon. A mobile home park was under mandatory evacuations, which were lifted around 8 p.m., according to KOAA. The fire was 30% contained as of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday.
  • A nearly 20-acre fire burned west of Wigwam on Tuesday. No structures were damaged. Mandatory evacuations were lifted in a neighborhood west of Wigwam, according to KOAA.

An air quality health advisory was issued at 8 a.m. Wednesday due to the wildfire smoke. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, it applies to southern Kiowa County, northeastern Otero County, and northern portions of Bent County. This includes Las Animas and Fort Lyon. This advisory is set to expire at 9 a.m. Thursday, but officials may extend it.