A plane drops fire retardant on a wildfire in mountains outside Denver. (Joe Amon / Denver Post )
Colorado fire officials discovered a second fatality Tuesday while fighting a blaze in the mountains southwest of Denver.
The body of Sam Lamar Lucas, 77, was found inside a burned home Tuesday, according to a statement by Jefferson County Coroner John M. Graham. The body of Lucas' wife, Linda M. Lucas, 76, was found outside the home Monday evening.
It is not yet clear whether or how their deaths were related to the fire. They are being investigated by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, an inquiry that could take weeks, according to the coroner's statement.
The Lower North Fork fire, which started about five acres, had grown to 4,500 acres by late Tuesday, officials said, burning at least 16 structures.
About 900 homes had been evacuated since the fire started Monday, likely sparked by a controlled burn last week that continued to smolder. On Tuesday, officials issued a pre-evacuation order, putting 6,500 homes on standby for evacuation.
Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia was expected to visit the area late Tuesday.
Officials knew conditions were ripe for a wildfire, with winds of up to 60 mph and a drier-than-usual March, but they had been hopeful early Tuesday that calmer winds would help bring the fire under control.
By late afternoon, winds had dropped and firefighters were making headway, some said. More than 450 firefighters were expected to be working the fire by the end of the day, according to the sheriff's statement.
“The weather is still good. They’re hitting it as hard as they can,” Steve Segin, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service based in Golden, Colo., told The Times.
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