Ice Fire: Hikers evacuated by helicopter after San Juans wildfire traps them

The hike to the Ice Lakes in the rugged San Juan Range just west of Silverton is one of the most beautiful in Colorado, but it turned scary Monday for 23 hikers and three dogs when a wildfire broke out near the trailhead.

A San Juan County news release said the hikers were situated above the trailhead in the South Mineral Creek area when the fire erupted about 1 p.m. Monday and were evacuated by helicopter. The area is surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks, so there was no other means of escape.

“They were all in different locations on the Ice Lakes trail above where the fire started,” said Deanne Gallegos, public information officer for the San Juan County office of emergency management. “They had no access down past the fire.”

The San Juan County sheriff’s office also moved in to evacuate other hikers and campers in the area.

The U.S. Forest Service deployed helicopters, tanker planes and a hot-shot squad to fight the fire. As of 5 p.m. Monday, the fire had burned 320 acres. A forest service news release said it was burning in “heavy, mixed conifer timber” and that the cause was being investigated.

According to the latest drought monitor map, San Juan County is in “exceptional” drought conditions, the highest on the scale.

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