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Early season Colorado wildfire forces evacuations; residents tense

March 16, 2013|By Paloma Esquivel
  • A wildfire burns out of control at Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins, Colo.
A wildfire burns out of control at Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins,… (Ed Andrieski / Associated…)

A Colorado wildfire that forced hundreds of evacuations raged Saturday afternoon west of Fort Collins.

The blaze, which was started accidentally, has burned between 750 and 1,000 acres. It started Friday afternoon in a rural residential community near Lory State Park, where one of the largest wildfires in state history destroyed hundreds of homes last year.

The blaze erupted on a day of record high temperatures. Gusty winds on Friday pushed it from the north. The winds had calmed by Saturday morning but were expected to increase later in the day, fire officials said. No injuries were reported and no structures had been damaged.

The size and early-season appearance of the blaze in a state coping with drought set many Coloradans on edge. Last year, the state was ravaged by two of the most destructive wildfires in its history. They burned thousands of acres and destroyed hundreds of homes.   

Poudre Fire Authority Capt. Patrick Love said such large fires are not unheard of in March.

“We’ve even had larger fires in January and February,” he said. “But the drought that we have been in, in this portion of the state, has somewhat played a role in the dryness of all the fuels.”

Love said the fire was caused by human activity. He did not give any more details except to say that it was not the result of a prescribed fire.

More than 800 evacuation notices were sent to homeowners on Friday and 579 of them remained in effect Saturday afternoon. An evacuation center was set up at an elementary school, and the Red Cross was on the scene to assist evacuees.

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paloma.esquivel@latimes.com

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