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Cherry Canyon Fire has burned nearly 12,000 acres in southeast Colorado

The wildfire started Wednesday about 10 miles northeast of the town of Kim in Las Animas County.
Credit: Las Animas County Emergency Management
The Cherry Canyon Fire started Wednesday about 10 miles northeast of the town of Kim in Las Animas County.

LAS ANIMAS COUNTY, Colo. — A wildfire that started last week has burned nearly 12,000 acres near a small town in southeast Colorado, according to the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control.

The Cherry Canyon Fire, which was sparked by lightning on Wednesday, is burning about 10 miles northwest of the town of Kim in Las Animas County.

By Tuesday evening, the wildfire had burned 11,818 acres in a remote area, according to a press release from the state fire division. The fire had 80 percent containment.

Due to the increase in containment, several fire-fighting resources were released, including the Kim Volunteer Fire Department. Due to the increase in containment, additional resources were released. Beginning Wednesday morning, the Type 3 management organization will transition management of the fire to a Type 4 and finally back to Kim Volunteer Fire Department on Friday.

According to officials, there are few structures at risk from the fire, but valuable natural resources like grazing land, water and livestock, are very important to the region. 

The release says, "...allowing the fire to continue to burn eliminates feed for cattle, exposes steep slopes to be susceptible to erosion and causes health concerns from the increased smoke."

Firefighters say they conducted a risk-benefit analysis on the fire and it was determined that rather than smoking out communities, removing grazing land for cattle and impacting communities with restrictions on travel/road closures, it is better to suppress the fire.

Unseasonably warm and dry weather, moderate winds and difficult access to where the fire was burning among canyons and cliffs had made fighting the fire difficult, the release says.

On Sunday, cooler temperatures and increased humidity assisted fire crews, while a wind shift to the northwest challenged existing fire control lines.

"Safety is the number one priority and as such, strategies moving forward include maintaining firefighter and public safety by utilizing sound risk management actions and utilizing suppression activities that guide the fire into natural barriers," according to the release.

The responding agencies were Las Animas County Sheriff's Office, Kim Volunteer Fire Department, Las Animas County Emergency Management, Las Animas County Road and Bridge Department, and the state fire division.

The state fire division also assisted the Kim Volunteer Fire Department with another wildfire in the area, the 466 Fire, which is now 100 percent contained, just 15 miles northeast of the Cherry Canyon Fire. 

Much of the southern half of Colorado was under a red flag warning on Saturday due to high fire danger. Las Animas County remains under Stage 1 fire restrictions.

This story is developing and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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