The Junkins Fire is burning near Westcliffe, Colo., in Custer County. There are more than 125 homes in the fire’s path, emergency managers told ABC7 in Denver.
County officials issued a mandatory evacuation for at least 130 homes and said 140 other homes were in pre-evacuation. Mandatory evacuations are rapidly extending according to the Custer County Emergency Management Facebook page. At least two highways are closed in the area, highways 96 and 65.
Two evacuation centers — a local church and a middle school — have opened to accept displaced residents. Officials are asking that large animals be taken to the county fairgrounds.
Downwind of the fire, the Pueblo County health department has issued an advisory for poor air quality because of smoke. Pueblo County is Custer County’s neighbor to the east.
This region has been struggling to contain wildfires for the past few weeks. A separate, human-caused fire began on Oct. 3 and proceeded to destroy eight buildings in Beulah Valley as it grew to over 5,000 acres. It was just contained on Saturday. Beulah Valley, Colo., was under evacuation orders for that fire and is faced with evacuations again.
The region around the Junkins Fire was under a red flag warning and a high wind warning on Monday. The National Weather Service issues a high wind warning only when gusts are expected to be stronger than 58 mph, at which point structural damage is possible.
Along with severe wind gusts, the relative humidity is extremely low — just 5 to 10 mph.
“Extreme fire behavior will be likely with rapid rates of growth and spread possible,” the Weather Service office in Pueblo, Colo., wrote. “The most critical conditions are expected Monday.”