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Commissioners OK Hayden Pass Wildfire Disaster Declaration

The Hayden Pass wildfire had already consumed nearly 14,000 acres by late Monday evening when this photo was taken. At times it appeared as if the intense cloud of heat and smoke was generating its own weather

In an effort to prepare for the worst but hoping for the best, the Fremont County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution at Tuesday morning’s regular meeting declaring a local disaster in the wake of the Hayden Park wildfire.    The disaster declaration makes note of the fact that as of the time the resolution was adopted over 14,000 acres of Sangre De Cristo wilderness in western Fremont County had already burnt.

The resolution also notes that the wildfire is not yet contained and continues to pose a threat to at least 206 structures in the vicinity in and around the Coaldale area.   The intent behind adoption of the disaster declaration is to better position Fremont County to tap into federal emergency disaster assistance should conditions worsen.

Just prior to Tuesday morning’s regular meeting the Board of Commissioners had a briefing on the wildfire from Christy Coleman of the Colorado Office of Homeland Security, Fremont County Emergency Management Director Steve Morrisey, and Sheriff Jim Beicker.   Coleman indicated that having an emergency disaster declaration in place would help expedite paperwork if federal disaster assistance is needed.

Sheriff Beicker told the commissioners that several people in the Fox Creek subdivision refused to evacuate Monday afternoon.   He said 47 large animals plus a number of goats and chickens have been evacuated to the Chaffee County Fairgrounds near Poncha Springs.   Beicker said an area he is particularly concerned about is the Eagle Peaks subdivision south of Cotopaxi which could be threatened if the wildfire continues to push southeastward towards Custer County.

Beicker said the Rocky Mountain Type 2 Fire Management Team will continue to be in charge of managing the fire.   The team is headquartered at the U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station just east of Salida.    It’s expected at some point the management team will conduct a community meeting for residents in the Coaldale and Howard area.

With such a large fire, steep terrain, and difficult weather conditions, one of the fire team leaders told all the cooperating agencies at Monday evening’s initial briefing, “Be patient, it’s going to be a long process”.