Sun June 24, 2012

Colorado Wildfires a Concern for Tourist Towns

Thousands of Coloradans were forced to flee their homes from Pikes Peak to Estes Park over the weekend as wildfires continued to rage during a record heat wave.

Authorities evacuated the entire town of Manitou Springs, a popular tourist destination beneath Pikes Peak and closed the Garden of the Gods park. 

To the north in Estes Park, where most visitors to Rocky Mountain National Park stay, a fire raced through a mountain subdivision, burning at least twenty homes and forcing the closure of one of the park's entrances for a couple hours Saturday evening.  

The wildfires have businesses in tourism dependent towns worried about a drop in business leading up to the busy July Fourth holiday.

Among them is the popular Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad which was forced to cancel trips of its tourist train through the central mountains due to the Treasure Fire burning near Leadville.  

One train over the weekend had to be evacuated as passengers and crew saw flames and smoke beneath them, according to the train's marketing director Kirstin Ayers.

She says several dozen people were safely evacuated from the site in vans.

"Climax Molybdenum mine as well as White Mountain tours did help us evacuate our passengers safely from the train within a very timely manner and everything went very well," Ayers says.

Ayers isn't sure when the train will resume trips, but she hopes it's soon.

"We’d usually be running two daily trips at 10 AM and 2 PM," Ayers says. "At this point our trips are canceled until we know more."