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Oak Ridge Fire: Residents under pre-evac wait for updates


Oak Ridge Fire: Residents under pre-evac wait for updates

Eric Bakke said he’s watched the Oak Ridge Fire grow over the past week, a mile from his home.

BEULAH VALLEY, Colo. — As the Oak Ridge Fire burning three miles from Beulah in Pueblo County continues to grow, so do nearby homeowners’ anxieties.

Eric Bakke lives about one mile from where flames took off. He said he’s been keeping an eye on the fire from his property since it started last weekend

“I look out the window and I see this huge brownish column of smoke,” Bakke recalled. “And I go, ‘that just doesn’t look right.’ So I go out and I get up at a vantage point from our property, and sure enough, this darn thing had blown up and started to do its thing.”

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Based on Bakke’s proximity to the fire, the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office put him and his neighbors under a pre-evacuation alert. This means they have to leave at a moment’s notice if the fire changes direction.

“Both vehicles were packed with what we felt was important, other than the essentials, which was our medication,” Bakke said. “I wanted to have my hard drives because it’s got most of my photo archives from my career. Not that I had to leave a bunch behind, but at least gave me a sense of comfort that I had some of it.”

Bakke said he’s lived in Colorado all his life, so he knows how quickly he could need to spring into action. Luckily, for the past week, he’s just been in standby mode.

“We already had and always have had, because I’m a Colorado native, we had some to go bags if we had to evacuate immediately,” Bakke said.

Living in Colorado and having covered wildfires as a photojournalist, he said he wanted to help out his community using his skillset. He’s photographed each day of the fire to share with his neighbors.

“Just to keep our community informed and to give them a visual look at what this is about, because a lot of folks have never been educated or been around anything this close, and I’m sure it’s a first time experience for a lot of folks,” Bakke said.

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An update Sunday from the Oak Ridge Fire said 484 personnel are fighting the flames, but the fire is still 0% contained. It’s burned more than 1,100 acres.

“I’m grateful for every one of the firefighters is here and everything the community has done to help out as well,” Bakke said.

The Oak Ridge Fire was started by a lightning strike. 

Fire information officer Kathryn Abrahamson said rain has helped a bit with the fire’s progression, but there’s still a lot of ground to cover as the fire continues to spread. She said the age of the fuels on the ground makes them very susceptible to burning, increasing the potential for quick growth.

“That area hasn’t seen fire in about 100 years in that that specific spot,” Abrahamson said. “So there’s just a lot of timber, and so it’s challenging from that perspective with the fuels.”

Abrahamson said not all fire is bad for forests. She said it can be beneficial to treat old fuels with prescribed burning. 

“Having a little bit of fire, if it’s on our terms, is a really positive thing,” Abrahamson said. “We would love to get to a point where we can kind of introduce that type of burn to the area and make sure it’s healthy for long term to come.”

Abrahamson said crews are expecting weather conditions to dry out as the week continues. She said in addition to the fuels on the ground, the difficult terrain will challenge firefighting efforts.

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SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Wildfires in Colorado

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