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Colo. Evacuates 300 Homes as Fire Rages

Danger: Blaze likely was ignited by coal deposits burning for years. Smoke forces a heavily traveled highway to close. Utah also has trouble spots.

June 09, 2002|From Associated Press

DENVER — Authorities ordered the evacuation of 300 homes Saturday, as a fast-moving wildfire in western Colorado roared to the edges of a small town, burning homes and briefly closing a 50-mile stretch of a heavily traveled interstate highway, officials said.

The blaze had moved to the edges of Glenwood Springs, a town of 7,700 about 125 miles west of here. Authorities evacuated the entire west side of the town.

Fire information officer Mit Parsons said five homes and one commercial building were destroyed, and at least 500 homes and 100 commercial structures were threatened.

Resident Cheryl Dunlap said her brother's home and at least four others were damaged or destroyed.

"My brother turned around and he saw 50-foot flames up the hill and they jumped in [their car] and left," Dunlap told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Red Cross spokeswoman Teresa Zeigler said 300 homes were ordered evacuated, and about 600 people took refuge at an emergency shelter.

Strong, hot winds quickly fanned the blaze across at least 2,000 acres.

Some flames were 100 to 200 feet high, firefighters said.

Reported in the early afternoon, the fire apparently was ignited by underground coal that had been burning for years, said Liz Mauch, a Grand Junction Interagency Fire Dispatch Center spokeswoman.

The smoke on Interstate 70, the main east-west route through the state, was so thick that some drivers had their headlights on in the middle of the day.

The fire was in the same area as a 1994 fire on Storm King Mountain that killed 14 firefighters.

Another blaze started by a campfire burned at least 100 acres in Park County in central Colorado, destroyed one structure and forced the evacuation of 20 homes and two campgrounds near Lake George, Parsons said.

In Utah, a wildfire near Zion National Park burned across 1,500 acres, threatening 20 vacation homes and five outbuildings. The fire, 21 miles east of Cedar City and seven miles north of the park, was one of three large wildfires burning in southern Utah.

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