Nightly News   |  June 22, 2013

Wildfires rage in Colorado resort town

Hundreds of people were driven from their homes in the town of South Fork, Colo., as a cluster of roaring wildfires – collectively known as the West Fork Complex fire – scorched its way through the southern part of the state. NBC’s Mike Taibbi reports.

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>> another threat tonight, wildfires in the west, raging out of control. as firefighters race to protect a storied resort town in colorado, resources are stretched and hundred of property owners can only hope for the best. here is nbc's mike taibbi .

>> reporter: thick cloud of smoke in the near distance beyond the rooftops. and the ominous glow of flames burning. for hundreds evacuated from the resort town of south fork , losing their homes to a fire so huge it can't be fought from the ground or from the air seems inevitable.

>> we hate to leave it. but if it is gone it is gone.

>> reporter: with the cloud cover thickening and wind abate abating and shifting there was optimism at today's briefing.

>> it is still burning but it was not showing the type of activity it was the other day.

>> reporter: still some 60 square miles have been scorched along three separate fronts in this lightning ignited wildfire while the fire's weather driven course change has spared south fork so far the flames are still two or three miles away and could also take out a ski resort that is the area's lifeblood.

>> if we lose the ski area , that is the --

>> reporter: the bigger problem here and in the west is diminished snow melt and rainfall and earlier arrival of peak summer heat compounded by dry wind. the result, vast tracks of timberland transformed into fields of fuel.

>> you put a match to it and they just go up like you poured gasoline on hem.

>> reporter: officials say it will be days before those evacuated from south fork will be allowed to return to their homes and apartments if they're still standing . if not.

>> nobody is in there to get heart other than the apartments.

>> reporter: the big fire near colorado springs earlier this month left two dead and consumed some 500 homes. there has been no similar toll here.

>> it is always a successful day when we have not lost a life and we have not lost someone 's home.

>> reporter: the story of this fire is nowhere near written yet. mike taibbi , nbc news, los angeles .