A grass fire that broke out in dry landscape near the west side of Bear Creek Regional Park in Colorado Springs late Thursday morning was 50% contained as of 4:30 p.m. after gusty winds pushing flames dangerously close to residential areas, sparking evacuation orders.
Mandatory evacuations were issued for 235 homes west of Vista Grande Drive, and on Gold Camp Road and Bear Creek Road. All residents were to leave the area immediately, the fire department tweeted Thursday morning. Evacuated residents were instructed to meet at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Two large nursing homes were also put under pre-evacuation orders.
Reentry to neighborhoods will be evaluated and announced at 8 p.m. after aircrafts fly over and access hot spots.
No homes were damaged or destroyed as of mid-afternoon, but the fire burned against backyards and fences, Colorado Springs Fire Department Chief Ted Collas said.
The department ordered air support for what was named the Bear Creek fire, and multiple crews responded on the ground, the agency's spokesman Mike Smaldino said.
A Chinook helicopter dropped 8,000 tons of water on the fire and two single engine airtankers dropped over 800 gallons of retardant along Bear Creek Road to slow the fire's spread, Collas said. Firefighters also appeared to put water on homes as a precaution.
The fire burned 8 to 10 acres with multiple agencies responding to the blaze, Collas said. He had advised residents to turn off their sprinklers as using them to dampen property reduces water pressure for firefighters trying to tap into the water lines.
Engines drove down Pollux Drive and crews attached crime tape to residents' mailboxes to mark who they had notified about the fire.
James and Catherine Stieglitz, who live on Nebula Court, started packing their cars after they saw a smoke plume of smoke and headed toward Cheyenne Mountain High School. In their large van, they packed overnight supplies, as well as their musical instruments, important documents, their two dogs and their cat.
"Like my grandfather's guitar. Or just music or writings...," James said of the items he packed. "I don't know if you'll ever see that again."
The couple, along with their two children, were among a handful of other evacuees at the high school's parking lot Thursday afternoon.
"I just don't want our house to burn down," Catherine said. "We have family coming for Thanksgiving. It's just the holidays are right here."
The parking areas for Bear Creek Nature Center were also closed as the fire continued to grow and people gathered along Lower Gold Camp Road to watch the blaze and fire-fighting effort.
Todd Matlock, a Colorado Springs contractor, was watching the fire from Lower Gold Camp Road with his dogs and son Klay Matlock. He was evacuated from his house on Bear Creek Place about a quarter mile from the fire.
Matlock has taken fire mitigation efforts around his home and put on a metal roof, but said he was still nervous because it is a log cabin.
"Its 2020, so it's like what else can we hit you with?" Matlock said.
However, he was pleased he was able to get his two Yorkies, Taylor and Brodie, out in time. He came home just long enough to get essentials and clothes.
"My neighbor was attempting to break in to get the dogs," he said.
This is Matlock's second wildfire evacuation. He was evacuated from a house in Rockrimmon during the Waldo Canyon Fire.
"I am just glad he is OK," Klay Matlock said.
Another wildfire broke out Thursday west of Divide and northeast of Florissant, Teller County Sheriff's Office spokesman Greg Couch tweeted.
The fire, between 2 and 3 acres in size, briefly prompted mandatory evacuations, which were lifted after the fire was contained at about 4 p.m.
The Gazette's Mary Shinn, Olivia Prentzel, and Christian Murdock contributed to this report.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.