This year’s fire season arrived early with a blaze Sunday off of Colorado 115 near Cheyenne Mountain State Park, forcing residents west of Rock Creek Mesa Road out of their homes.

Billy Joe Stephenson and his niece were visiting his wife at UCHealth Memorial Central when he heard about the fire and rushed home. Smoke from the fire was reported just before 2 p.m.

Standing near Commanche and Pawnee roads, just outside of the evacuation zone, Stephenson, 75, could see, but wasn’t allowed to approach his home of 42 years, a red house on Pawnee Road.

Watching the fire made him nervous, bringing back memories of his house burning down as a child in Louisiana. In that fire, “we lost everything,” he said.

“It’s no fun to lose everything you got, especially when you worked all your life for it,” Stephenson said. But the worst would be losing pictures and papers that couldn’t be replaced, he said.

The blaze had burned 5 to 7 acres by late Sunday afternoon, Fort Carson officials reported. The post’s fire department was battling the fire along with El Paso County and local fire departments. The cause of the fire is unknown.

Residents of Cheyenne Mountain Estates, 8160 Piute Road, were put on pre-evacuation notice, the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said.

“Due to a fire south of the park we are denying access to the south side trails,” says a post on Cheyenne Mountain State Park’s Facebook page. “Please postpone visiting the park until we have a clear status on the fire.”

Although El Paso County was not under a red flag warning Sunday, temperatures have been above average for days and no precipitation has fallen this month at the city’s official measurement location, the Colorado Springs Airport.

The high temperature in Colorado Springs was 69 degrees at 2:40 p.m., but the day’s strongest wind speeds were in the early morning hours, said Randy Gray, a meteorological technician for the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

The fire danger is expected to increase in the early part of the week, with critical fire weather conditions Tuesday along the Interstate 25 corridor and the plains. Rain and snow are forecast Wednesday.

The Gazette’s Jerilee Bennett contributed to this report.

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