The East Peak Fire is now 50 percent contained as of Monday evening. The cause of the fire has been identified as a lightning strike.
The fire grew from 9,100 to more than 13,000 acres as of Monday. The fire is burning in heavy timber below the East Spanish Peak, sending up billowing smoke that can be seen for miles. It remains about seven miles outside of Walsenburg, which remains under a pre-evacuation order.
Firefighters continued to build line around the entire perimeter of the fire on Sunday, building on work done Saturday to minimize the spread in the Spanish Peaks Wilderness Area and to protect structures.
Fire managers are currently conducting a burnout operation to starve the fire of fuels on the southern boundary. Conditions are predicted to be ideal for this operation because winds are coming from the southeast rather than the southwest. A large smoke column might be produced by this operation.
A spokeswoman for the fire says that smoke from the four fires burning in southwest Colorado, known collectively as the West Fork Complex Fire, is actually helping with East Peak Fire efforts by "covering" the fuels.
Saturday afternoon the fire progressed further into the wilderness running uphill causing a large smoke column. A wind shift occurred causing the fire blow back on itself. Air and ground resources are continuing to aggressively work this area of the fire.
The fire has already destroyed several structures and a Boy Scout camp west of Walsenburg. Scouts were eating dinner when the fire first approached the camp, and had just minutes to evacuate.
Authorities say flames reached as high as 150 feet into the air when it raged across the Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch Wednesday night.
The scouts spent the night at the Red Cross shelter at John Mall High School in Walsenburg after evacuating.
Bill Fortune, a spokesman for the Pikes Peak chapter of the American Red Cross, spoke highly of the scouts' behavior during the emergency.
"Even this morning they did the flag ceremony, sang songs, just like they would at camp," Fortune said.
"Boy Scouts are pretty resilient," Fortune added. "They program for that and train for that. All the leaders that I talked with show that confidence.
"Whether they're camp staff or troop leaders, they're not upset, they're not panicking and they know what they're supposed to do."
The fire has placed a sizable stretch of area west of I-25 under mandatory or pre-evacuation status. About 300 homes are in the mandatory evacuation area. The fire remains about seven miles outside the town.
The areas under mandatory evacuation status are as follows:
There are an estimated 300 properties within the evacuation area. An American Red Cross shelter has been established at the John Mall High School in Walsenburg, Colorado.
There are current mandatory evacuations in effect east of La Veta, west of I-25, and south of Walsenburg to Las Animas County line to include the following county roads—310, 310.1, 310.2, 312, 312.1, 313, 314, 315, 315.1, 316, 317, 317.1, 318, 320, 330, 331, 332, 340, 340.1, 342, 343, 344, 345, 360, 360.1, 363.
The evacuation center for large and small animals has been closed, however small animals can be taken to Noah’s Ark in Trinidad. They can be contacted at 719-680-1063
Residents in the Black Hawk Ranch Subdivision, Silver Spur Subdivision and the River Ridge subdivision are now allowed to go back home.
To register as “Safe and Well” with the Red Cross, call 1-800-REDCROSS (733-2767) and press 5 from the menu options. You can also register at their website. They ask that you use those to inquire about a family member who has been evacuated.