Wildfire erupts two miles northeast of Eagle

By David O. Williams
Real AspenJune 28, 2012
Wildfires have been raging all around the state in recent weeks. Now one is burning in Eagle County.

The smell of smoke was thick in the air over Eagle Thursday night, and an eerie orange sunset greeted residents of the county seat 30 miles west of Vail on Interstate 70.

According to the Eagle County Sheriff's Office, emergency responders were battling an eight-acre blaze two miles northeast of I-70 at about 9 p.m. A 911 pre-evacuation notice was sent to 75 homes east of Eby Creek Road and in the Castle Peak Ranch area.

Around midnight, county officials said "no evacuations are anticipated for the Eby Creek Fire tonight." They also said the fire was likely sparked by lightning in the area.

Earlier in the evening, residents were told to gather pets, medications, important documents and other valuables and be prepared to leave quickly. “Those who feel threatened by approaching smoke or fire should not wait for an evacuation notice to leave,” according to a county press release.

County officials were setting up evacuation centers if necessary, posting locations to the county website at www.eaglecounty.us. Pet and large animal sheltering will be available at the Eagle County Animal Shelter and the Eagle County Fairgrounds in the event of evacuations.

Firefighters from local, state and federal agencies responded to the blaze, providing air tanker support. But smoke was still seen streaming to the west as darkness fell on Thursday, and the smell of thick smoke was still overpowering later into the evening.

Firefighters on Thursday made progress battling much larger blazes on the state's Front Range, taking advantage of cooler, wetter weather to achieve 75 percent containment of the High Park Fire near Fort Collins and 15-percent containment of the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs.

Combined, those two wildfires have destroyed about 600 homes and claimed two lives, including one person found dead today in a destroyed home in Colorado Springs. Another person is missing. Overall, wildfires have killed five people during the worst season in the state's history.

Gov. John Hickenlooper tonight announced that Colorado's request for an expedited major disaster declaration has been accepted by the White House.

“This evening we learned from the White House that our disaster declaration request has been accepted. We appreciate the quick review and response,” said Hickenlooper. “With this funding we will be able to provide much needed assistance to our communities affected by wildfires.”

President Barack Obama will visit the scene of the Waldo Canyon Fire on Friday

“This news, combined with President Obama's visit, makes clear that the whole country is with us in fighting these fires and recovering from their devastation,” Hickenlooper said.

The major disaster declaration will bring more federal funds to Colorado to provide resources for crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance; public assistance for emergency work and a hazard mitigation grant program.

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