Colorado Wildfires Burning Toward Tourist Destinations

Ten wildfires now burn in Colorado, including one moving towards favorite tourist spots.

By SHARE

Colorado's worst wildfire season in a decade is forcing thousands of residents to evacuate while also disrupting people who are visiting the state's popular summer tourist destinations.

Of the ten wildfires burning in the state, the largest is the High Park Fire, which has scorched 83,000 acres, making it the second largest in Colorado history. The blaze has destroyed about 250 homes and forced the evacuation of nearly 5,000 residents near Fort Collins, the state's fourth-largest city, according to the Denver Post.

[See photos of the erratic Western wildfires]

But high temperatures, dry air, and strong winds have sparked fast-moving fires across the state, with new ones now threatening tourist spots like Pike's Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park.

That fire, near Colorado Springs, has forced the evacuation of more than 11,000 residents. Four tanker planes will begin dropping 3,000 gallons of flame retardent Monday, the Post reported.

The most recent fires threaten the state's finances in ways previous ones have not. Smoke and haze continues to close tourist sites and deter the tourism boost the state normally enjoys around the Fourth of July.

The fires, many of which began with lightning strikes, are multiplying because of winds, says Larry Long, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service.

"The winds cause spotting, that's one of the reasons these fires are tough to contain," he says. Spotting occurs when winds blow sparks or flaming material like pinecones away from the main blaze, creating smaller, periphery fires.

The best we can hope for is some rain and weaker winds, but that might be a while," Long says.

Though Colorado has beared the brunt of the wildfire destruction, it is not alone. Fires in Utah and California have threatened hundreds of homes and forced evacuations in more rural areas. The largest wildfire in New Mexico's history continues to burn near Ruidoso, though it is much closer to being fully contained.

Seth Cline is a reporter with U.S. News and World Report. Contact him at scline@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.