Colorado Fire Forces Evacuations

Monday, September 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Damp, cool weather moved in Monday as firefighters battled an 1,110-acre wildfire that threatened more than 130 homes, but more wind was possible.

Hundreds of residents remained evacuated from the mountain neighborhood Monday.

The blaze slowed slightly during the night as light rain fell, but firefighters were concerned that 30 mph wind gusts forecast later in the day would send the flames racing again through tinder-dry trees and vegetation.

On Sunday, the fire had jumped from treetop to treetop and across roads.

``We could still get similar type of torching,'' fire information officer Artie Colson said of Monday's predicted windy weather.

Firefighters said the blaze was zero percent contained, discarding an earlier estimate of 15 percent containment.

Incident Commander Joe Hartman said 80 to 100 homes could be in danger.

Firefighters and home owners cleared brush from around houses Sunday and crews manned fire engines to stop the flames.

``So far we've been able to slow it down and burn it out around the homes,'' Hartman said Sunday.

Some residents returned Sunday to chop down trees and help protect homes while others anxiously watched firefighters' efforts from nearby ridges.

The fire's thick pall of smoke spread eastward for miles from the canyons and foothills about 12 miles southwest of downtown Boulder. Temperatures in the 90s and low humidity dried out grass and pine needles in the fire's path.

``We've been living with this threat for years,'' said Steve Walters, who watched his house from a ridge, but lost sight of it because of the thick smoke.

Susan Femmer was unable to use her electric chain saw to clear out trees surrounding her hilltop home because power to the area had been cut off.

``It breaks your heart because it is so beautiful,'' Femmer said.

Officials had ordered voluntary evacuations in a half-dozen subdivisions, and about 200 people had left, Broyles said.

The fire started last week on county-owned open space. Larry Stern of the sheriff's office said it was probably manmade, despite restrictions or bans on open fires across much of the drought-stricken state.

Two other Colorado fires burned more than 10,000 acres each, one southwest of Denver and one east of Rocky Mountain National Park.

In central South Dakota, a series of lightning-sparked grass fires on Sunday joined into a blaze that was estimated at 25,000 acres before it was contained early Monday. Six outbuildings and an old unoccupied farmhouse were burned. Some of the acreage blackened was in the Houk Ranch, which was shown in the movie ``Dances With Wolves.''

Nearly 6.7 million acres have burned across the United States this year, among the nation's worst fire seasons in a half century. The National Interagency Fire Center reported 23 fires burning in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming.


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