Grassland fires destroy two homes in southeast Colorado

LAS ANIMAS, Colo. (AP) — Two wind-whipped grassland fires in rural southeastern Colorado destroyed two homes, briefly closed a state highway and forced temporary evacuations in the unincorporated community of Fort Lyon, fire officials said.

The fires erupted Tuesday west and east of the town of Las Animas and had blackened nearly 8 square miles (19 square kilometers) by Wednesday, according to the Bent County Office of Emergency Management.

Crews had contained 25% of a fire that threatened Bent's Old Fort National Historical Site in Otero County overnight. The blaze fed on brush surrounding structures on the property — site of a 17th-century trading post along the Santa Fe trail — until La Junta firefighters beat it back, KKTV reported.

A second fire east of Las Animas briefly forced evacuations near Fort Lyon. Crews from around the state were working the blazes.

Two homes were destroyed, officials said, and a section of state Highway 50, the area's main thorofare, was briefly closed. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported that 75% of the Oxbow State Wildlife Area east of Las Animas had been blackened, and the agency closed the John Martin Reservoir State Wildlife Area as a precaution.

The cause of the fires was unknown.