Colorado fires scorch state; thousands evacuated

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DENVER, Colo — Fires in Colorado have forced a prison to evacuate 905 inmates, a state corrections department spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The majority of the inmates are “special needs,” Alison Morgan told CNN, meaning they receive medical treatment.

Because it’s usually a time-consuming process to move inmates, officials began moving those at the Colorado Territorial Correctionalfacility to Centennial Correctional facility around midnight Tuesday, Morgan said. The transfer was finished at 9 a.m., she said.

She stressed the inmates were moved only as a precaution; the Royal Gorge Fire has not reached Colorado Territorial Correctional facility, which is located on Highway 50 in Canon City, southwest of Colorado Springs.

DenverfireBut that and other fires are moving fast and winds are expected to pick up throughout the day, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said at news conference Wednesday morning. The Black Forest Fire is burning in that county.

“We have some very unpredictable conditions,” he said. Authorities’ “priorities are saving lives — protecting the first responders and firefighters.”

There have been no injuries among responders so far, he said.

Meanwhile, backup is coming in. Rescue workers are getting more helicopters and National Guard troops are relieving law enforcement workers who have been working nonstop, Maketa said.

By late Tuesday, more than 3,600 residents were evacuated as the Black Forest Fire burned quickly through dry timber. As many as 80 homes could be damaged or destroyed, Maketa said Wednesday, but he said an exact estimate was difficult.

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