Boulder fires destroy 4 buildings, force evacuations | AspenTimes.com

Boulder fires destroy 4 buildings, force evacuations

Judith Kohler
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
A windwhipped fire glows on a hillside above rural Boulder County, Colo. on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 where ranches and farms evacuated people and animals. Three wind-driven wildfires swept across Boulder County grasslands Wednesday, prompting authorities to call for evacuations of threatened residential areas. (AP Photo/Peter M. Fredin)
AP | FR45074 AP

BOULDER, Colo. ” Three wind-driven wildfires raced across Boulder County grasslands on Wednesday, destroying at least four structures and prompting mandatory evacuations of at least 500 homes.

No injuries were immediately reported.

Residents were ordered to leave more than 500 homes on the north side of Boulder, county spokeswoman Barbara Halpin said. At least one other neighborhood north of the city was evacuated, but the number of homes wasn’t immediately known.

Officers went door-to-door in some areas telling residents to get out.

The Red Cross said at least 100 people went to one emergency shelter. Authorities said more than 11,000 homes had been alerted to the fire by reverse-911 calls, but not all of those households were told to leave.

The fires started in parched, rolling grasslands dotted with subdivisions, individual homes and horse ranches in Boulder County about 25 miles northwest of Denver.

The largest burned across more than 6,400 acres, entering the Lake Valley Estates neighborhood north of Boulder and threatening the other neighborhood inside the city limits.

Two smaller fires were contained by early evening.

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.

“It’s really terrifying,” said Pamela Taylor of nearby Louisville, who was trying to find out whether her horse Zorro had been moved from a boarding stable that stood in an evacuation area. “You just want to set eyes on him.”

Heavy smoke partially obscured the mountains looming to the west, but smaller fires were visible on the slopes of the foothills.

Sheriff’s Cmdr. Phil West said the fire apparently started when winds knocked down a power line.

Winds at the scene ranged from 35 to 55 mph, said Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service spokesman. He said the winds had begun to back off but were still strong enough to make firefighting difficult.

“This is what scares everybody to death, these high winds,” said John Stobbelaar, a retired captain with the Mountain View Fire District who went to one of the fires after he was called up on standby.

Authorities said at least three of the destroyed structures were homes, and the fourth was either a barn or a home.

At one blaze, firefighters tried to save the buildings rather than contain the flames, West said.

“We’re just doing structural protection and letting the grass burn,” he said.

An emergency animal shelter at the Boulder County Fairgrounds in nearby Longmont was full, and an overflow shelter was set up at a ranch.

Small-animal shelters took in at least a dozen pets.


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