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Archive for Sunday, June 16, 2002

Colorado firefighters battling on several fronts

Fire near Durango spreads

June 16, 2002

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— As firefighters gained ground on a wildfire threatening the suburbs southwest of Denver, another blaze flared up in the southwest corner of the state, forcing the evacuation of more than 180 homes near Durango.

The fire had burned more than 20,000 acres in the San Juan National Forest by Sunday morning. A hundred homes had been evacuated earlier in the week, but the flareup Saturday forced residents to flee more than 80 others 10 miles north of Durango.

Near Denver, high humidity early Saturday had helped firefighters working on 102,000-acre wildfire reach 35 percent containment, but wind that picked up in the afternoon prevented the use of controlled burns to stop the fire's spread.

"We don't have a perimeter secure yet on the (northern) flank. Until we have a line that we can hold for a couple of days, nothing is secure," fire information officer Mike Smith said.

Some 5,300 people remained out of their homes Saturday evening because of the blaze. It started June 8 in the Pike National Forest, apparently as an illegal campfire, and had burned to within 40 miles of the Denver city limits.

The wildfires were among at least seven burning in Colorado.

Drought conditions have left Colorado and large parts of the country open to an increased threat of wildfires.

In California, erratic wind quickly whipped a small wildfire across 3,000 acres in the southern Sierra Nevada, destroying five homes and forcing 200 people to flee neighborhoods and campgrounds.

The fire broke out in dry grass and brush about 30 miles northeast of Bakersfield on Saturday afternoon and quickly spread, fire officials said. The fire had largely abated after sundown, and residents were being allowed to return, said Capt. Benny Wofford, of the Kern County Fire Department. He said there were no injuries, and fire officials expected the fire would be contained quickly.

Near Pecos, N.M., firefighters rushed to build fire lines Saturday, a day after lightning and thunderstorms sparked a wildfire that spread to 1,500 acres, fire information officer Jim Whittington said. The fire was 40 percent contained Saturday and officials expected full containment by Monday.

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