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Archive for Monday, June 10, 2002

40,000 evacuated from Denver as fire threatens

June 10, 2002

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— A wind-driven wildfire closing in fast on Denver prompted authorities to order the evacuation of up to 40,000 people Monday from their homes along the southwestern edge of the metropolitan area.

The 61,000-acre fire roared to within 10 miles of residential neighborhoods, spreading toward Denver at about a mile an hour.

Firefighters were pulled off the lines in front of the fire because it was too dangerous.

"They just cannot see the front of this fire because of the smoke," said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman said Barb Masinton:

Homes near Roxborough State Park were ordered evacuated.

"It was our lifelong dream to live up here," said evacuee Carol Simone, whose home is about 30 miles south of Denver. "It isn't about the house, it's the woods and the environment. If that's destroyed I'm going back to Florida."

The fire was started by an illegal campfire Saturday in the Pike National Forest 55 miles southwest of Denver and had doubled in size since Sunday. Campfires have been banned in national forests and most counties because of severe drought.

Nearly 300 firefighters were on the lines and more crews were ordered into place. Four bombers and four helicopters dropped fire retardant and water.

It was one of at least eight fires in Colorado, including an 8,300-acre blaze that destroyed 24 homes and sent residents fleeing in Glenwood Springs, near Storm King Mountain in western Colorado.

The fire near Glenwood Springs was 5 percent contained Monday as improved weather allowed airplanes to resume bombing the flames with retardant. The fire destroyed 40 structures, including 24 homes. About 3,000 residents were ordered to evacuate during the weekend.

Authorities said a few residents might be allowed to return to pick up urgently needed items such as medicine.

No injuries were reported at Glenwood Springs, but firefighters there were especially cautious because of memories of the Storm King fire that killed 14 firefighters on similarly dry, steep terrain in 1994.

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