(Las Animas, CO) -- Full disclosure, wildfire days like these are frustrating for everyone and even reporters. We don’t like not being able to get to the scene as much as you want an update. Because every single working human with firefighting skills was needed, we had to practice patience for updates. However, that being said we did a good job of checking in on everyone I think.
Here are some moments from Friday April 22, 2022.
Just after lunch, texts and email start pouring in to us about a fire north of Lamar. Eric Lagergren sent the photos of the fires as he was trying to creatively get back to Otero county using alternative routes.
(photo credit to Eric Lagergren)
Here’s the location of where the fire was burning.
Shortly thereafter a text went out to residents in the Brandon area to evacuate. A shelter was set up at the Kiowa County fairgrounds according to the Kiowa County Sheriff.
Blowing dirt, high winds and brown out conditions made it difficult for anyone to get anywhere. There was almost zero visibility eastbound on highway 50 at the turnoff to Ft. Lyon. I had to give up and turn around, something that required some adult brain function. Here’s a video of some of what I got stuck in.
All the while this is happening, being as windy as it was, we weren't surprised to hear of another fire south of La Junta. Residents reported hearing fire engines scream past their homes on Adams headed south of Highway 109.
Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley confirmed it with a social media post warning:
And later when he had time, a video showed that the fire had burned a train bridge along H 350.
By this time, Kiowa County Independent reporter Raina Lucero was able to get close enough to the fire burning on H96 to send some photos of that fire. (photo credit Raina Lucero, Kiowa County Independent)
As blowing dirt continued to be a problem for firefighters, it was also a big issue with safety on highways in Eastern Colorado. The Baca County, Springfield Volunteer Fire page posted a crash that closed highway 287 north of Springfield. It was a seven vehicle crash and the photos show just how serious it was. They asked for space to do their job to work the scene.
And because mother nature wasn't through with blasting SE Colorado with the wild winds, yet another fire popped up north of Bent county.
(photo credit, Las Animas/Bent Fire District)
The Las Animas/Bent County Fire Protection district posted that this fire occurred at county road 19 and county road C in Kiowa County, northeast of Blue Lake. With heavy winds of up to 75 miles per hour and zero visibility at times due to the blowing dirt it was dangerous. They reported it threatened many structures but they were able to keep them safe.
Mutual aid included:
Bent County Sheriffs Office, Kiowa County Sheriffs Office, Kiowa County Fire Protection District, Kiowa County Road and Bridge, Bent County Road and Bridge, Hasty/McClave Fire Department, Rocky Ford Fire Department, La Junta Fire Department, Colorado Fire Prevention, Crowley Fire Department and Cheraw Fire Department.
This fire is still under investigation.
Our neighbors to the north in Lincoln county had a close call with a fire. The post from the Sheriff stated:
“We got lucky! Deputy Sheriff Tanner Hilferty was only a mile away from a grass fire that started near Genoa. Using his refillable fire extinguisher, he was able to keep the blaze from crossing Interstate 70. Then our friends at Genoa VolunteerFire Dept came and knocked it down.”
As the sun set eerily with that smoky sunset look that seems pretty if you didn’t know what was behind earning it, residents started posting photos. Bent County's Amanda Leck took this photo and wanted us to share it with you.
(photo credit, Amanda Leck)
It was a nice break from seeing photos of gargantuan plumes of smoke billowing through dust and dirt and flames breaking through them.
La Junta Fire Chief Brad Davidson employed the useful tool of social media to update on yesterdays fires.
And with a break, Otero County Sheriff Shawn Mobley posted through their news page that the day was a great reminder to get signed up for the Code RED Emergency alert system.
At http://www.lajuntafire.com/. Or download the app from https://www.onsolve.com/.../mobile/mobile-app-download/.
The train bridge that was burned along highway 350 is one that Amtrak uses for the Southwest Chief. The route will likely have a re-route or the railroad will use buses to bridge that area of the route. At this time, there is no official word on exactly what will happen, we will keep an eye out for this.
As the day ended, some firefighters were able to come home for a bit to get cleaned up and rest. Volunteer Firefighter from Cheraw, Jake Ehrlich showed off his post firefighting look and a few photos of the challenges they faced.
The community posted time and time again a resounding thank you for the efforts to protect life and property. There are expected to be high winds and dry conditions again this afternoon, Saturday April 23. Be extra careful in all that you do.