Illegal drone halts firefight against Lightner Creek Fire

DURANGO, Colo. (KRQE) – A wildfire is threatening homes and forcing evacuations just west of Durango.

Lightner Creek Fire: What you need to know »

The Lightner Creek Fire started late in the afternoon in the Lightner Creek area about three miles west of Durango. More than 100 homes were quickly evacuated north of Highway 160.

The blaze started as a structure fire and spread to surrounding areas.

With gusty winds out of the west, the flames quickly spread eastward and the fire divided into two parts.

At sunset, the main fire was estimated by aerial observers at about 50 acres on the west side of Lightner Creek and the spot fire is about 200 acres on the east side of the creek.

Numerous air tankers were dropping retardant and helicopters making water drops until almost sunset. That’s when an unauthorized drone flew into the fire area and all firefighting aircraft were ordered to evacuate and dump their loads of retardant at high altitude.

Authorities are looking for the drone pilot who violated the restricted airspace and endangered aircrews.

Back on the ground, firefighters scattered fire engines throughout neighborhoods to protect homes threatened by the flames.

Fire officials say the community hotline number is 970-385-8700.

Durango Fire and Rescue officials say an evacuation center has been set up at Escalante Middle School.

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