Crews work to save Colo. town as wildfire grows

Firefighters from the San Juan Hotshots based in Durango, Colo, clear brush from around structures Saturday, June 22, 2013, in South Fork, Colo. Fire crews with tankers and hoses stood guard Friday night as a massive and fast-burning wildfire threatened a popular mountain tourist enclave in southwestern Colorado, forcing the evacuation of more than 400 people. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Gregory Bull

DEL NORTE, Colo. Authorities say a colossal wildfire near a popular summer retreat in southern Colorado continues to be driven by winds and fueled by dead trees in a drought-stricken area.

The conditions have prevented fire crews from making containment lines around the blaze, which grew overnight to 108 square miles, up from 100 on Saturday.

No structures have been lost in the fire, and no injuries have been reported.

Officials say the fire burning near South Fork is the largest the region has seen. They say it is doubtful fire crews could establish any containment lines until there's a break in the weather, possibly Tuesday.

Officials remain optimistic they can protect the town, however.

The fire's rapid advance prompted the evacuation of hundreds of summer visitors and South Fork's 400 permanent residents Friday. It could be days before people are allowed back into their homes, cabins and RV parks.

South Fork's mayor says up to 1,500 people were forced to flee.

The wildfire, a complex of three blazes, has been fueled by dry, hot, windy weather and a stand of dead trees, killed by a beetle infestation.

But the fire's spread had slowed by Saturday morning after the flames hit a healthy section of forest. Fire crews remained alert as more hot, dry and windy weather was forecast.

"We were very, very lucky," Rio Grande County Commissioner Carla Shriver told evacuees at Del Norte High School. "They are saying they haven't quite seen one like this in years. There is so much fuel up there."

As many as 16 fires are burning across Colorado.

A firefighter staging area is seen in South Fork, Colo., as officials monitor a wildfire that burns west of the town on Friday evening, June 21, 2013.
AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

Another wildfire burning in the foothills about 30 miles southwest of Denver is expected to be fully contained soon and evacuation orders have been lifted.

Fire officials say they expect the Lime Gulch Fire near Conifer to be contained by Sunday evening. It is currently 90 percent contained.

No structures have been destroyed and no injuries have been reported. The fire has burned 511 acres.

Fire officials say they believe the blaze started by lightning on Wednesday. It forced about 100 people to leave their homes. Those evacuation orders were lifted Saturday night.