Boulder blaze forces evacuations of 900-plus homes |

Boulder blaze forces evacuations of 900-plus homes

Thomas Peipert and Ivan Moreno
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
A structure burns to the ground as firefighters battle a major blaze near U.S. Highway 36 south of Nebo Road north of Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009. Three wind-driven wildfires swept across Boulder County grasslands Wednesday, prompting authorities to call for evacuations of threatened residential areas. (AP Photo/Longmont Times-Call, Richard M. Hackett)
AP | The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER, Colo. ” More than a hundred firefighters spent the night battling a stubborn, wind-driven wildfire that triggered the evacuations of more than 900 homes as it scorched grasslands across Boulder County.

The fire was encroaching the northwest part of the county near a subdivision where 532 homes were evacuated Wednesday, and firefighters were trying to keep it from reaching the city limits as winds began to wane overnight into Thursday, said county spokesman Andrew Barth.

“The wind has died down so the fire hasn’t been spreading as fast,” said Barth, adding that the fire’s unpredictability has made it difficult to contain. “Basically with all the hot spots we can’t say whether the fire has been contained.”

Two firefighters sustained minor injuries ” dirt in the eyes and a twisted ankle ” but no other injures were reported Wednesday. Two barns and two homes were destroyed, Barth said.

He said 150 firefighters would work overnight, while another 50 rested.

The fire, believed to have started when winds knocked down a power line, has burned 1,800 acres in Boulder County, about 25 miles northwest of Denver. The blaze was one of three wildfires Wednesday that swept through the county. The two others have been contained.

“We could see the flames and the smoke was really coming down into our faces when we left,” said 56-year-old Sharon Getman, who left her home with her parents. Getman said she took bibles, pictures and two U.S. flags belonging to her grandfathers, both Army veterans. “I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to be happening and the wind was relentless.”

Television video showed flames leaping across a highway and racing up a parched brown hillside. Glowing embers blew across a fire-blackened field like snow.

Flames licked the shoulders of one road as cars and pickups rolled by, some towing livestock trailers.

Firefighters thought they had gotten a handle on the fire when powerful winds pushed across their containment lines and in the direction of two neighborhoods in rural and mountain residential areas, forcing the evacuation of another 391 homes late Wednesday.

“The fire was so close and all hell was breaking loose,” said Fred Anders, 66, adding that he could see the fire about 200 yards from his home. Anders and his wife Candace went to a shelter at a nearby high school in Niwot but said they were going to sleep in their car. The couple also brought binoculars to keep a watch on their home.

“I won’t sleep anyway,” he said. “You can’t sleep. Get real.”

Officials said no one was sleeping at the Niwot shelter and only a handful of people were at the second shelter that was set up at another local high school.

Barth said crews will be looking for any hot spots near the areas under evacuation Thursday morning and check that fire-damaged power poles are structurally safe before residents are allowed to return.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that it had agreed to help pay for 75 percent of the state’s firefighting costs.

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