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The Nation

Weather Aids Fight Against Wildfire

April 26, 2002|From Associated Press

BAILEY, Colo. — A 2,400-acre wildfire sent thick smoke across wooded foothills southwest of Denver on Thursday as firefighters labored in cooler weather to protect hundreds of homes.

Cloud cover, lighter wind and lower temperatures provided relief for about 250 firefighters building lines around the blaze.

"We're making hay," said Mike Frederick, who heads a 20-member crew from Wilmington, Ill.

Smoke dropped visibility at times to less than a quarter of a mile in the area 35 miles from Denver. A barn and a shed were destroyed, but there were no reported injuries. About 400 people remained out of their homes.

The fire crept within 30 feet of U.S. 285 in places. The highway remained open, but motorists were prohibited from stopping.

The fire started Tuesday in tinder-dry ponderosa, grass and brush in an area popular with smokers. It spread quickly.

Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener said three high school freshmen seen in the area had been questioned. He said charges could be filed in the next couple of days and two of the teens had hired attorneys.

Bailey, a town of 4,400 people, was evacuated Wednesday afternoon and four schools were closed when flames crept to within a quarter of a mile of downtown. Three schools remained closed Thursday.

Most residents were allowed back in their homes by nightfall, when cooler weather eased the fire threat, but the sheriff's department said many areas were without electricity or water.

A winter drought has triggered an early start to the wildfire season.

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