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Tourism industry struggles amid Colorado fires

9:50 PM, Jun 21, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA-Scores of campers had to evacuate Friday from the town of South Fork, a prime spot for fishing and mountain adventure in Colorado.

"I had to knock on doors, get everybody rousted out of their beds and wake everybody up," said Terri Deacon, manager of the South Fork Campground. "People are scared. A lot of our campers decided to go on home."

A few of her campers decided to take Deacon up on her offer to park their RV's at her home in Monte Vista.

From here they can only watch, wait, and hope South Fork isn't reduced to ashes.

"I've been running back and forth to South Fork all my life and I can't believe it may be gone," said Deacon.

The story is emblematic of the fears that have people cancelling reservations for trips to Colorado. National news continues to broadcast images far and wide of raging infernos in the rockies.

In Canon City, the Royal Gorge fire is fully contained, but local businesses are still struggling.

They've seen cancellations from across the country, but also from the Denver area.

"If you're planning to go to the Royal Gorge region this weekend or anywhere in the near future and you're thinking about canceling because of the fires," said Josh Keltner with trade group Camp Colorado. "Don't."

Despite the damage to the Royal Gorge Park, the railroad beneath it is now fully operational and the river through the gorge re-opened to rafting on Friday.

It's a relief to workers who rely on tourists, but now they need tourists to come back.

Open attractions aren't everything. Many people alter their summer plans once fire season gets active, forcing fire restrictions in the mountains.

"I look forward to camping every summer and end up canceling," said Melanie Carabello Hill in a comment on the 9NEWS Facebook page. "It's not camping without a campfire. I totally agree with the fire bans for the record."

Meantime, in South Fork, the businesses have a more immediate problem on their hands.

They're ending the week wondering what comes next: to re-open or to rebuild?

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