Colo. fire burns nearly 1,200 acres
by Sheila V. Kumar
Associated Press Writer
March 22, 2011 10:16 AM | 1475 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Fire crews, from Golden, Colo., Fire Department, pump water from a hydrant to a small pond, where air crews fill their baskets as they continue to attack the Indian Gulch fire from the air on Monday. Strong winds and warm, dry weather hampered efforts Monday by firefighters to stop a wildfire burning across more than 700 acres in the foothills west of Golden. Residents were warned to be ready to leave quickly in case the fire spreads. Crews were working to stop the fire from spreading into a subdivision containing about 250 homes and into Golden Gate Canyon. Residents of 705 homes received warnings.
GOLDEN, Colo. - About 100 homes in the foothills west of Denver remained under evacuation orders and hundreds more were on standby as strong winds helped spread a wildfire scorching nearly 2 square miles of drought-stricken brush, trees and grasses.

The fire has already blackened about 1,200 acres west of Golden, in Jefferson County, and officials said it was 15 percent contained Tuesday.

A light dusting of snow fell on the tops of the hills overnight, but the weather has been mostly working against firefighters in the steep, rugged terrain about 15 miles from downtown Denver.

More strong winds are in the forecast, with gusts as high as 75 mph expected later in the day.

Federal authorities were set to arrive Tuesday to lead the effort against the fire, which started Sunday and was fanned by winds.

The Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center _ a federal agency that coordinates firefighting in Colorado, Kan-sas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming _ said it was organizing to be ready to attack new fires that may start.

Residents west of Golden fled the mountains in cars and trucks Monday, some pulling horse trailers. Many of them, including Brian Fletcher, had packed up belongings in preparation.

"We smelled the fire and shortly after that, the Golden Fire Department and police were here all day. They used the fire hydrants all along the street," said Fletcher, adding that he was worried about the wind.

In a subdivision at the base of the foothills near the fire, residents watered lawns to prevent flying ash from ignit-ing the dry grass. The air smelled like a camp fire.

“We’ve been very dry, we have a lot of material to burn, trees and the brush," county sheriff’s spokesman Mark Techmeyer said Monday. "You have virtually no snow on the ground, and we’re hitting mid-70s today with real high winds. It’s the perfect recipe for a fire disaster."

A smaller, 10-acre fire southwest of Golden was contained Monday, allowing the residents of 25 evacuated homes to return. A third fire in the mountains of the county burned at least one structure before it was contained.

Fire managers say wildfires are not unusual this time of year, when there are severe drought conditions. Officials suspected the blazes were human-caused.

A wind-driven blaze scorched 622 acres west of Boulder on March 11. More than 200 homes were evacuated for a few hours, but none was damaged.
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