Elephant Butte wildfire update: Crews hope Tuesday weather helps containment

The Elephant Butte fire burning in Jefferson County near Evergreen remained about 50 acres in size with zero containment Tuesday morning, but firefighters said they hope the day’s cooler weather will give them a chance to box the wildfire in and prevent further spread.

About 1,000 homes were ordered to be evacuated Monday, and those evacuations and associated roadblocks were still in place Tuesday morning, according to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office — and no new evacuations have been ordered.

The fire has not damaged any structures, and there have been no injuries reported, officials said.

“As soon as we’re able to let people back in we’ll do so,” Mike Taplin, spokesman for the Jeffco sheriff’s office, said at a morning news conference.

The fire is in the area of Upper Bear Creek Road and Overlook Trail, according to Evergreen Fire Rescue. Stacee Martin, the department’s assistant chief and spokeswoman, said at the news conference that it’s burning in a very rocky, steep area — which is why it was so important to get helicopters dropping water on the wildfire.

“Our firefighters are getting in there,” she said. “Boots on the ground makes a difference. But it’s tough going.”

After reaching the upper 90s on Monday, temperatures are expected to top out in the low 80s on Tuesday with more humidity. That’s good news for firefighters, Martin said, as was the rain that fell on the area Monday night.

“We’ll be able to really attack it hard,” she said of the fire. “… The goal today is to keep it within a box, to keep it contained. We know there’s more warm weather coming tomorrow and the next day.”

Martin said a crew of “hot shots” from South Dakota spent the night keeping an eye on the wildfire. Air support is expected again Tuesday, and fire engines are in place near homes, she said.

“We feel confident that we have enough boots on the ground that we can keep homes as safe as possible,” Martin said.

It’s not yet clear what started the fire on Monday.

“We don’t have any information on what caused the fire yet,” Taplin said. “That’ll be something that will be determined later. Right now we’re just focused on getting this under control.”

Officials had established an evacuation center at Evergreen Middle School, but closed it down overnight because no one was there. But it was slated to reopen Tuesday morning for any evacuees looking for a place to stay, Taplin said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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