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Fire burns within feet of National Historic Site in southeastern Colorado

The fire came within feet of the Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site. Park staff estimate 85% of the park's acreage has burned.

LA JUNTA, Colo. — At least two large fires are burning in southeastern Colorado near the borders of Bent and Otero counties.

Together, the fires have burned more than seven square miles of grassland. 

Fort Lyon River Fire

The Fort Lyon River Fire east of Las Animas claimed two homes, according to KRDO, 9NEWS' news partners in Colorado Springs. It was burning near the town of Las Animas.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, incident commanders with Colorado State Patrol told KRDO the fire had burned 2,909 acres and was 50% contained.

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Bent's Fort Fire

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Bent's Fort Fire in Otero County had burned about 1,800 acres, according to La Junta Fire Department Chief Brad Davidson. He said the fire was about 25% contained.

Credit: NPS
Bent's Old Fort

That fire has burned mostly farmland, and no structures were lost.

The fire is named for Bent's Old Fort, a National Historic Landmark. It's currently closed due to the fire, according to the National Park Service.

Park staff estimate about 85% of the park's 800 acres have burned, and "a significant number" of the park's cottonwood trees were damaged, according to a press release from Bent's Old Fort.

"Thanks to the efforts of fire crews, the reconstructed adobe fort remains undamaged," the release said. "Crews were also able to save the fort’s wagons and cannon which were located outside the walls of the fort. There have been no injuries to park staff and all of the animals of the fort (horse, mules, ox, goats, chickens, peacocks, and cats) are unharmed."

The release says the fire initially started on the south side of Highway 194, burning about half an acre next to the highway and extending into the eastern section of the park. High winds later reignited the fire, which burned areas along the Arkansas River and eventually spread to private property and the Oxbow State Wildlife Area. A wind shift occurred around 8 p.m. Tuesday, causing the fire to burn back toward the west and putting the fort at risk, according to the release. 

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"Everyone and all of the animals are fine and the fort is undamaged. We're so fortunate," said a message posted on the Facebook page for the site.

Credit: NPS
Photos from the National Park Service show that the fire came very close to the historic site.

The park service said a portion of the historic site will reopen to the public Friday. Only the fort and the quarter-mile path between the fort and parking area will be open. All other trails in the park will be temporarily closed for crews to mitigate post-fire hazards and remove hazard trees.

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