Lightning likely sparked Oak Ridge wildfire burning near Beulah

Flames from the Oak Ridge fire near Beulah
Mike Sweeney/For CPR News
Flames from the Oak Ridge fire near Beulah, Colo. The fire is burning near the Pueblo County-Custer County line, June 24, 2024.

Authorities say lightning likely sparked the Oak Ridge fire burning near Beulah, southwest of Pueblo. As of Wednesday morning, fire officials estimated the fire was covering more than a square mile in the Pike-San Isabel National Forest.

A federal team took over managing the firefighting efforts on Wednesday morning, said Incident Commander Matt Holte. More than 250 firefighters are working to contain the blaze, which he said is burning across steep, rough terrain. 

“We're looking for opportunities out in front of the fire to where we can attack that and make good progress on it,” he said.

Mike Sweeney/For CPR News
An Erickson firefighting helicopter goes airborne after refilling its water tank at Lake San Isabel while fighting the Oak Ridge fire June 24, 2024 near Beulah, Colo.

Twenty homes have been evacuated, Holte said. Firefighters have also used air tankers to try to smother the fire. Residents in Middle Creek Canyon were evacuated earlier this week and have not been allowed to return to their homes. Other nearby residents have been warned to be ready to evacuate if the wildfire spreads or conditions worsen.

The wildfire has grown since it was first discovered on Saturday. State health authorities have issued an air quality advisory for residents in Pueblo County and parts of Custer County due to wildfire smoke. Officials with Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment say people should stay indoors if smoke is present in the area, and said the very young, elderly and people with heart or respiratory problems should limit outdoor activities.

Joe Wertz contributed to this report.