Friday, March 25, 2011

Firefighters hope to put out the last of a wildfire that temporarily forced the evacuation of 8,500 people south of Denver.

The fire has burned 2 1/2 square miles of trees and grasslands near Franktown. Fire crews worked through the night and the fire was 95 percent contained Friday morning.

Authorities say the roof of one home was singed but no other damage was reported.

A helicopter was able to start dropping water on the blaze within about 15 minutes of the fire starting. Another helicopter and an airplane that had been fighting another fire in the foothills west of Golden also helped slow the growth of the latest fire.

Residents have been allowed back into their homes near Franktown but have been warned to remain ready to evacuate in case of flare-ups.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Firefighters gained ground on two wildfires on the outer reaches of the Denver that forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

A fire fueled by high winds 2.5 square miles of trees and grasslands Thursday and prompted evacuation orders for about 8,500 people near Franktown, 35 miles southeast of Denver.

More than 100 firefighters contained 70 percent of the blaze later Thursday, and everyone was allowed to return home with the warning that they should be ready to leave again if necessary.

A similar sized wildfire burning since Sunday in the foothills west of Denver was 77 percent contained Thursday night. Fire officials ordered the evacuation of 17 homes threatened by the fire west of Golden, but people were allowed to go home the next day.

No homes have burned in either fire. The causes of the fires are under investigation.

Meanwhile, a grass fire burned two wooden bridges and a barn and had people in the town of Karval in eastern Colorado preparing to flee. Plans to evacuate the town of about 100 were canceled when the 8-square-mile blaze changed direction, Lincoln County sheriff's Capt. Clint Tweden said.

Crews got a break from cooler weather Thursday. It snowed a little in the foothills and east of Denver on the Franktown fire.

However, Colorado and federal fire managers point to the landscape parched by months of below-normal moisture on the eastern side of the Rockies as a possible sign of a long, busy wildfire season to come.

The worry is that if spring snows and rains don't materialize, the grasses and other plants will become even more fire-prone.

"It's been persistently dry since the middle of August," said state climatologist Nolan Doesken

At least five Colorado counties have enacted fire bans.

In southern Colorado, about 40 firefighters battled a nearly 8-square-mile grass fire that began when strong winds knocked down a utility pole at the U.S. Army's Pueblo Chemical Depot complex, said depot spokesman Charles Sprague.

No munitions at the complex were threatened, but at least 600 employees and construction workers were evacuated from a construction site and administration buildings as a precaution, Sprague said. The fire was 95 percent contained Thursday night.

The fire jumped the depot perimeter and burned a shed-like structure, Sprague said. No injuries were reported.


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