More firefighters arrive to tackle Colorado blaze |

More firefighters arrive to tackle Colorado blaze

UPDATE 1:05 p.m. — Authorities say a man accused of starting a southern Colorado wildfire that forced residents of more than 2,500 homes to evacuate has acknowledged building a fire but said he made sure it was out.
A court document says 52-year-old Jesper Joergensen initially said he had started a fire to burn trash but then said he had been grilling in a permanent fire pit the day before the blaze began. Joergensen, who reported the wildfire, said it started about 20 feet (6 meters) away from the fire pit Wednesday and he tried to put it out.

The arrest affidavit says about 25 buildings had been destroyed as of Thursday, when he was arrested.

The document says Joergensen, who is from Denmark, has been living in the country illegally. It’s not clear if he has a lawyer.

DENVER (AP) — Crews struggled to rein in a wildfire that was spreading in several different directions Sunday in southern Colorado.More firefighters were arriving to battle the blaze that has prompted the evacuation of more than 2,000 homes.

“It’s a very challenging fire, I’ll be honest with you, with all the wind changes,” Shane Greer, an incident commander with the Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, told residents Sunday.

Authorities said the fire east of Fort Garland was estimated at 64 square miles after unpredictable winds pushed the fire both north and south over the weekend.

About 500 firefighters have worked to contain the flames since the fire began Wednesday. A second team arrived in the area Sunday and plans to take over fighting the fire north of Highway 160.

The first team will focus on the area south of the highway.

“Usually with a fire we can chase it … we haven’t been able to chase this because it keeps going in at least three different directions,” Greer said.

Authorities said they began assessing some areas this weekend to track destroyed or damaged structures. But they cautioned that conditions remain dangerous and said they want to be sure that information is correct before notifying property owners.

The fire was expected to remain active and grow in intensity with a warm and dry forecast on Sunday.

Highway 160 remains closed and officials said they could not estimate when it will reopen or when the evacuation orders will end.

The Costilla County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday said Joergensen was being held on suspicion of arson in connection with the fire.

At Sunday’s public update, officials said they do not believe Joergensen started the fire intentionally.

State emergency management officials reported nine other fires remained active around the state on Sunday. Officials near Durango hoped that a cold front would slow down one of those. The fire began a month ago and is estimated at 77 square miles.

The Durango Herald reported that authorities planned to relocate some crews and equipment to help firefighters guarding communities as the flames moved north.

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