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Wind-fueled fire destroyed or damaged 15 buildings in San Luis Valley town

Crews continued to assess the damage in Monte Vista Thursday, the town’s police chief said.

Firefighters mop up after a five alarm fire in Monte Vista, Colorado Wednesday April 20, 2022. Responders from Alamosa, Center, Del Norte, La Jara and Monte Vista battled the five alarm, fast moving blaze for a couple of hours. Several Structures were destroyed. John McEvoy Special to The Colorado Sun.
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Six families were displaced by a fire that quickly grew out of control and destroyed several homes in a rural community in the San Luis Valley, authorities said Thursday.

Fire crews worked in the damage zone in Monte Vista to assess the cause of the fire that ignited midday Wednesday and assess the damage, George Dingfelder, Monte Vista’s police chief, said in a news release. 

Fifteen buildings, including houses and outbuildings, were lost or damaged, he said. A final report documenting the total number of structures lost will be released in the coming weeks.

Investigators believe the fire, which grew to 17 acres before firefighters gained the upper hand, was not intentionally set, Dingfelder said. Monte Vista police, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and investigators with the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control will continue to investigate to determine its cause. 

Strong winds fueled the Monte Vista fire Wednesday, authorities said. Gusts up to 30 mph were recorded at the weather station southwest of the town.

It was not until a break in the wind, hours after the fire was reported, that firefighters could make progress on containing the fire, Incident Commander Paul Duarte said at a news conference Wednesday.

Crews from six counties joined the effort, which included a helicopter from Colorado’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control that dropped buckets of water on the flames. 

Forecasters warn that Friday could bring extreme fire danger across the state amid very dry, “unseasonably warm” and windy conditions. 

Any new fires would rapidly spread and would be “difficult if not impossible to control,” the National Weather Service in Boulder said, warning people to avoid “any and all outdoor activities that may produce a spark.” 

Wind gusts up to 60 mph are expected across the Front Range and Eastern Plains, the agency said. 

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