Wildfires burning in western Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” Dozens of firefighters toiled under a hot sun Monday to contain wildfires crackling in dry shrubs and foliage, including one moving toward several homes in western Colorado.
Authorities asked families in at least two homes near Glenwood Springs, about 160 miles west of Denver, to leave by late afternoon and notified residents of two subdivisions to the east to be ready to get out.
Garfield County sheriff’s spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis said shifting winds had fire officials worried that the 100-acre fire could spread quickly and erratically.
It was believed the fire was one of several sparked by lightning in western Colorado Sunday night. Bureau of Land Management spokeswoman Mel Lloyd said about 50 lightning strikes were reported.
One fire, no more than 4 acres at mid-afternoon, was a cause for concern because it was burning within 200 yards of homes and gas wells about 4 miles east of Parachute, roughly 200 miles west of Denver.
A second blaze grew to about 900 acres from 400 acres by late afternoon in a remote area on a hillside above the community of Cameo, 45 miles west of Parachute. An air tanker and helicopter working on that fire were diverted to the one about seven miles west of Glenwood Springs.
Lloyd said the temperatures hovering in the high 80s, low humidity and winds, could pose problems for the fire crews.
Western Colorado, unlike the Denver area and the rest of the eastern face of the Rockies, missed out on precipitation from late spring storms.
“As far as fire danger right now, we’re still expecting an average season, but the western part of the state is very dry,” said Larry Helmerick of the Rocky Mountain Coordination Center.
About 50 firefighters were working on the fire west of Parachute, dubbed Cottonwood Creek. Hose lines had been established to the flames but Lloyd said the crews could be hampered by afternoon winds.
One home was evacuated for a short time but no other evacuations or damage were reported, she said. Its size was downgraded from 5 acres to 4 acres after an initial assessment was revised.
A blaze dubbed the Whittaker Flats fire grew was burning on remote federal land above Interstate 70 near the town of Cameo.
“Although you can see it from I-70, it takes about four hours to reach it by vehicle,” Lloyd said.
Three air tankers and two helicopters, as well as a management team and other firefighters were assigned to the fire but the exact number of people was unknown, she said.
As the summer fire season gets under way, Helmerick said it’s a good time for homeowners who live near forests to fireproof their property.
Among his tips: keep grass cut close to the ground; eliminate trees near structures; eliminate debris from gutters; and move woodpiles away from structures.
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