Two wildfires prompt evacuations in Colorado
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Two wildfires in Boulder County threatened the homes of at least 1,700 people Friday, prompting evacuations in the city of Boulder and the neighboring foothills.
Three subdivisions in the foothills were evacuated Friday morning shortly after the wildfires were first reported, and authorities issued emergency phone calls to 181 numbers. Officials later ordered evacuations for a portion of Boulder’s west side. Public buildings including a senior center, a court house and two medical buildings were also evacuated.
Boulder County sheriff’s Cmdr. Rick Brough said about 100 firefighters and two air tankers were trying to contain the blazes, which grew to about 134 acres by Friday afternoon.
He said the evacuations have been more precautionary than anything else because heavy winds prompted fears the fire could quickly spread. He said currently no homes were immediately threatened and the wind has died down.
“We still have concerns, though, if the wind picks up,” he said.
He said investigators believe the second fire was started by embers from the first fire, but it’s unknown how the first fire started.
A city evacuation alert to his cell phone was enough to send 49-year-old engineer Joe Paulson back to his two-story house in the evacuation area. He threw papers and photos in a suitcase while friends helped remove his five bicycles.
“I just started grabbing stuff and flinging it,” Paulson said. “I’ll wait to panic later.”
Third grade teacher Kalan Orobona, 28, raced home after getting a call from his brother at school. His wife had already left with their dog but Orobona stayed behind to rake leaves away from the house.
“I had to leave the kids behind for the Halloween party,” said Orobona, who said a student teacher took over his class.
An air tanker buzzed over the neighborhood as Orobona raked leaves in his flip-flops and officers went door to door as neighbors packed up their cars.
The fires, burning on about 20 acres on public open space land, are closer to the city than the wildfire that destroyed more than 160 houses in the foothills last month. That fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of property damage.
Besides the single-engine air tanker dropping fire retardant, about 60 firefighters were trying to contain Friday’s blaze. Brough said officials were asking for additional resources.
Fire officials said the blaze isn’t as dangerous as the September wildfire that burned 10 square miles, because of the calmer winds.
“A lot’s going to depend on the weather at this point,” Brough said. There were no immediate reports of power outages, injuries or damage to buildings, he said.