Wildfire near Boulder, Colo., forces evacuations

A small wildfire burning in the mountains near Boulder, Colo., on Sunday reached within a mile of the city’s downtown, forcing thousands of residents from their homes.

Wind pushed the flames in a wooded area west of Boulder’s shopping and dining district, prompting authorities to order more than 1,000 residents to evacuate, The Associated Press reported. Authorities warned 2,200 more to get ready to leave if conditions worsened, said Gabi Boerkircher of the Boulder Office of Emergency Management (OEM).

By early afternoon, the blaze, in the Sunshine Canyon area west of downtown Boulder, was 20% contained, The Denver Post reported, but winds were gusting, officials said.

“We are feeling pretty good about it right now," Boulder spokeswoman Barb Halpin told The Post. “The big question we have is the winds,” which were gusting at 20 mph just before 1 p.m. MT. They were expected to rise to 40 mph. “That could really change the dynamic,” she said.

OEM said more than 1,000 homes had been evacuated since the fire was first reported around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. By midafternoon, 426 homes had been evacuated, with another 836 on a pre-evacuation list as a precaution.

The fire was believed to cover as much as 106 acres and was moving south toward downtown Boulder. On its Facebook page, OEM said no homes or other structures were immediately believed to have been lost.

Six aircraft were dropping both water and slurry on the flames, Halpin said. Residents were warned to avoid Wonderland Lake, where water refills were underway.

In 2010, a wildfire destroyed nearly 200 homes in the mountainous area west of the city, home to the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Resident Seth Frankel, who was warned that he and his family may need to evacuate, said he had packed up “generations of things” that can’t be replaced and was ready to go if the air quality worsened. Frankel told AP that smoke was pouring toward neighborhoods and that many dead trees were combusting and sending black smoke into the air less than a half-mile from his home.

But Frankel, a 20-year resident, his wife, a Boulder native, and three daughters have dealt with fires and floods before, he said. “It’s always alarming and always on your mind, but it’s not an uncommon sensation around here."

Frankel said he got word of the fire early Sunday from a neighbor who got a warning call and was outside with neighbors watching the flames and smoke. But Frankel let his daughters, 9, 11 and 13, sleep in.

“It’s still alarming, but there’s no panic,” Frankel said.

Copyright USA Today


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