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Western wildfires: Evacuations in Colorado, challenges in Arizona

May 17, 2012|By Michael Muskal
  • The Gladiator Fire burns in the Bradshaw Mountains in Prescott National Forest, Ariz.
The Gladiator Fire burns in the Bradshaw Mountains in Prescott National… (David Wallace / Arizona…)

Colorado officials on Thursday ordered a mandatory evacuation of about 65 homes in Larimer County as a precaution against the spread of a wildfire that has been burning since Monday.

Known as the Hewlett fire, the blaze near Fort Collins, Colo., has grown quickly in recent days from less than 1,000 acres in the Roosevelt National Forest to 5,090 acres. As of Thursday afternoon, the fire was about 5% contained and was being fought by 391 personnel, officials said.

Additional firefighters have been ordered, as have two heavy air tankers, one heavy helicopter and one light helicopter.

The fire is being fueled on land described as open timber with brush and grass in steep, rugged terrain. The growth potential of the blaze is described as high.

The Larimer County Sheriff's Office has issued an evacuation order for approximately 65 homes from Bonner Springs Ranch Road to U.S. Highway 287 and south, officials said.

Authorities say the fire was caused by humans and that it's under  investigation.

In Arizona, officials were still battling four wildfires but seemed to be holding their own despite less than favorable weather, including low humidity and winds gusting to as much as 40 miles an hour. According to the daily situation report, fires were burning on about 19,800 acres, up slightly from the almost 17,500 acres reported on Wednesday.

The biggest increase was at the Gladiator fire near the historic mining town of Crown King. Officials reported the fire burning on 6,573 acres, mainly in the Prescott National Forest

Containment for the fire, also blamed on humans, was at 5%. The fire,  reported on Sunday, is being fueled by Ponderosa pine and chaparral, and the terrain is described as steep.

Officials increased the damage to four buildings, up from three earlier in the week.

The town is under an evacuation order, and most of Crown King's 350 residents have already left. Fewer than a dozen remain in the area full of summer houses.

The Sunflower fire, on 12,500 acres in the wilderness area of the Tonto National Forest, was reported on Thursday to be 10% contained, up from 5% earlier this week.

Another wildfire in the Tonto National Forest northeast of Young was at about 1,900 acres; named the Bull Flat fire, it was 50% contained from earlier in the week. No structures are threatened by either blaze.

The Ellwood fire, on the San Carlos Indian Reservation in eastern Arizona, remained at 1,600 acres and 5% contained.

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michael.muskal@latimes.com

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