Fire threatens Colorado mountain town of 400
SOUTH FORK — A massive wildfire working overtime in hot, windy weather was headed toward a tourist town in Colorado’s southwestern mountains on Friday, and fire managers rate the chances of saving it as slim if the fire continues its course.
South Fork, home to about 400 full-time residents, was evacuated as the 47-square-mile acre West Fork Fire moved closer. Wildland firefighters were teaming up with local firefighters to try to save the town, which is surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest.
Fire spokesman Penny Bertram said officials rate the chances of saving the town of about 400 full-time residents as “low to moderate.”
Bertram said the hot, dry and windy weather along with large stands of beetle-killed trees are causing extreme fire behavior. While most fires actively burn four hours a day, this one is burning for 12 hours a day, helping it to mushroom in recent days.
Firefighters have largely let the lightning-sparked fire burn because it’s too hot and erratic to fight on the ground. Water and slurry drops from air tankers also haven’t been effective, with pilots reporting that their drops largely evaporated before hitting the ground.
“There’s no stopping it,” Bertram said.
The town is a popular spot for hiking and camping. The fictional Griswold family camped in South Fork in 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” The famous scene where a dog urinates on a picnic basket was filmed at South Fork’s Riverbend Resort, called “Kamp Komfort” in the movie.
The town was incorporated in 1992, making it Colorado’s youngest municipality.