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Denver-Area Fires Prompt Evacuations

October 30, 2003|From Associated Press

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Wind-whipped wildfires raced across tinder-dry forest north and south of Denver on Wednesday, forcing thousands of families to flee.

A fire in the foothills near Boulder exploded to 3,500 acres, burning an unknown number of structures and pushing firefighters off the lines as 100-foot flames leaped into the air. Authorities said it would be "suicidal" to fight the blaze head-on.

A few hours later, a fast-moving fire swept through pine-covered hills in the suburbs of far south Denver, destroying two homes. Evacuations of about 3,000 homes and businesses were ordered. By evening, the fire covered at least 300 acres and threatened 300 to 400 homes, according to fire officials.

One firefighter was treated for a minor injury.

The two fires were fanned by wind gusts up to 60 mph ahead of a cold front that had been expected to end the region's fire season. Cooler weather and lighter winds were expected today.

Authorities said they believed both fires were started by power lines downed by high wind.

Outside Boulder, roaring flames pushed firefighters off the front lines. Residents of about 300 homes in the area around tiny Jamestown were told to leave, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

Forest officials said the fire swept across five miles in a matter of hours. "All the people in the world wouldn't have done a lot of good today," said Jim Bedwell, supervisor of the Arapahoe Roosevelt National Forest.

South of Denver, evacuation orders covered homes in five subdivisions and not far from The Country Club at Castle Pines, home to pro golf's International tournament.

Outside Boulder, the fire threatened homes and structures at a Denver Public Schools outdoor education center. Among those evacuated were 58 fifth-graders on an overnight trip.

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