FIRE UPDATE: More evacuations in Custer County; I-25 reopened

FIRE UPDATE: More evacuations in Custer County; I-25 reopened

16 June 2011

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USA — Interstate 25 between Trinidad and Raton New Mexico reopened early Thursday morning after Colorado Department of Transportation officials decided smoke and fire no longer endangered traffic.

Hundreds of residents displaced by the Track fire raging at the Colorado-New Mexico border were also allowed to go back to their homes Wednesday, offering a glimmer of hope for firefighters battling several blazes in New Mexico.

Farther north, however, residents were asked to flee their homes in Custer County after winds pushed flames past fire lines surrounding a Colorado wildfire.

The mixed results came on the eve of warm, dry weather that was expected to make its way into the region today, bringing with it high winds and volitale fire conditions that threaten to further expand the blazes.

“The winds are just all over the place,” said Kelly Stover, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service of the Duckett fire in Custer County. “It’s really hard to predict what the fire’s going to do.”

Twenty-five homes in the Brush Creek subsividion were evacuated Wednesday due to the fire that started Tuesday north of Westcliffe and has since blackened 2,969 acres.

Residents of another subdivision and a church camp were evacuated earlier this week, bringing the number of houses threatened to 75.

The fire was 10 percent contained Wednesday evening, and so far the cost to fight it has risen to more than $1.2 million, Stover said.

“It made a push to the south again,” Stover said. “They pulled the firefighters off for a while due to safety.”

To the south, firefighters made progress in battling a larger blaze that has caused major traffic problems along the Colorado-New Mexico border while charring more than 25,000 acres.

Firefighters were unsure when Interstate 25 would re-open between Raton, N.M. and Trinidad, said Dan Ward, spokesman for the New Mexico Forest Service. Since Sunday, the fire has jumped the highway north of Raton and forced more than 300 from their houses.

Most of those people were allowed back home Wednesday, Ward said.

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