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After Spring Fire, Colorado’s Spanish Peaks hoping for big summer for tourism

To recover from last year’s fire, tourism officials in the Spanish Peaks region are hopeful they will see one big summer of visitation.

Both sides of Highway 160 have burned from the Spring Fire on La Veta Pass Sunday, July 8, 2018, near La Veta, Colo. The Spring Fire burned through Paradise Acres and other neighborhoods in Huerfano and Costillo counties over the past week and has burned an area slightly larger than the city and county of Denver. The fire has burned 106,985 acres and currently stands at 55 percent containment. The area around Paradise Acres has been a tricky area to contain with difficult terrain and unpredictable winds. (Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via AP)

The view of La Veta pass last Fourth of July was covered by flames and smoke. Instead of celebration — water fights, fireworks and grilling — the Spring Creek Fire was sweeping its way through two southern Colorado counties.

The fire started a week earlier, June 26, at about 3:30 p.m., according to fire investigators. Over three weeks, 141 homes were lost and 108,000 acres were burned. Overall, the impact was devastating to the infrastructure and economy of the Spanish Peaks region.

“The timing couldn’t have been worse,” said La Veta Mayor Doug Brgoch, who’s been the city’s top lawmaker off-and-on for more than 20 years.

Fewer than 800 people live in La Veta, and even fewer in the neighboring village of Cuchara, which has become a hot spot for Texans and Oklahomans looking to escape the summer heat in the Southern Rockies. For many who flock to the area, the Sangre de Cristo mountains are the closest. Cabins dot the Cuchara Valley, and the shops and local Cuchara watering hole, the Dog Bar, close during the winter...

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