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3 wildfires burn out of control in Colorado

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 13, 2013 at 1:10 am •  Published: June 13, 2013
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In southwestern New Mexico, firefighters were trying to keep a massive wildfire from reaching an old mining town whose 45 or so residents have been evacuated. That fire was burning in a mountainous area of dense forest.

About 60 miles southwest of Colorado's Black Forest Fire, a 4.5-square-mile wildfire that evacuated Royal Gorge Bridge & Park has destroyed 20 structures, including some in the park, but the park's animals are all right.

The soaring Royal Gorge suspension bridge spanning a canyon across the Arkansas River has fire damage to 32 of its 1,292 wooden planks, city officials said. An aerial tram car and tram buildings on either side of the gorge were destroyed, and the tram cable dropped into the canyon. An incline railway that descends 1,500 feet to the canyon floor was damaged.

More than 900 prisoners at a nearby medium-security prison, including murderers and rapists, were evacuated overnight because of heavy smoke. The prisoners were transferred by bus and van, 200 at a time, throughout the night.

"This was done as a precaution because it takes a lot of time to move the prisoners," Department of Corrections spokeswoman Adrienne Jacobson said.

Another fire sparked by lightning Monday in Rocky Mountain National Park has grown to an estimated 400 acres in area with trees killed by pine beetles.

The cause of the fire near Colorado Springs wasn't clear. The El Paso County sheriff said there were no reports of lightning Tuesday.

Jaenette Coyne was among those who initially called 911 to report smoke behind her home. She quickly decided she needed to get out.

"We had five minutes to leave before the flames were too close. We left with nothing," she said.

From a fire station, she and her husband watched on television as flames engulfed the house where they have lived since 2009.

"I don't know how to tell you in words what it felt like," she said. "It's the worst thing I've ever felt in my whole life."

She said their 20-month-old daughter has been asking when the family can go home and see their three cats, which likely died in the fire.

"What do you do when you've lost everything?" she said.

Meanwhile, fire evacuees Greg and Sharon Rambo set up camp in a Wal-Mart and Home Depot parking lot. They were living in a modular home in Black Forest as they waited to close on a larger house nearby. They believe both were burned.

"It leaves you feeling numb, loss of appetite, disoriented," Greg Rambo said.

The couple previously lived in Southern California and were evacuated during a 2004 blaze that hopscotched over their property without damaging it. Since then, they have carried a briefcase filled with medications and important documents, and kept their trailer far from their house so they'd have a place to sleep in the event their home burns down.

Their daughter, who lives nearby, called them Tuesday afternoon and urged them to flee. They do not know if her house also burned.

Gov. John Hickenlooper declared disaster emergencies Wednesday for the Black Forest and Royal Gorge fires and a 60-acre fire in rural Huerfano County, authorizing a combined $10.15 million to help pay for firefighting and other costs.

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Associated Press writers Steven K. Paulson, Ivan Moreno and Catherine Tsai in Denver, and AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton contributed to this report.