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Colorado Firefighters Take Advantage Of Break In Winds

NEW CASTLE, Colo. (AP) _ Crews used controlled fires to gain ground against an 1,800-acre blaze in western Colorado, but forecasters predicted more hot, dry weather and wind gusts on Thursday.

Firefighters took advantage of calmer winds Wednesday to contain about 50 percent of the fire after swirling, unpredictable winds helped fan the flames earlier this week.

``If there's no freak weather and everything goes as planned, we could be on a long steep glide to quiet in the next day or two,'' fire information officer Karl Brauneis said.

Crews intentionally set controlled fires called back burns between the wildfire and scores of houses to eat up vegetation that could have fueled flames. Part of the fire's growth from 1,000 acres was due to the controlled burn and a run the flames made to the largely unpopulated north.

The flames forced the evacuation of 90 homes Monday and Tuesday in steep brush and tree-covered terrain about 160 miles west of Denver. No structures burned, though some were within a half-mile of the flames.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said he was evaluating when evacuees could go home. Besides the 90 homes evacuated in an area where some are worth a half million dollars, residents of 110 more homes were on alert.

A firefighter injured his hand and another suffered heat exhaustion.

Electricity was cut to some homes in the fire area to reduce the danger of power lines starting another fire, falling on firefighters or entangling low-flying firefighting aircraft.

A second blaze about 20 miles west of the New Castle fire has charred more than 1,000 remote and rugged acres but fire officials said it was nearly contained.

Both fires were started by lightning, officials said.
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